Rosy Nolan continues to Make Waves

One question that keeps coming to mind while listening to Rosy Nolan is what do her fans think of her reinvention? What do they think of her gravitation towards country, then rock, and now traditional country? If they’re like me, they recognize an artist that has an ever-changing landscape. She’s breaking down the walls and creating a simplistic sound that showcases her magnificent voice and cozy music orchestrations. The sound of a banjo can elicit many images for some listeners – but for me, Nolan’s use of this instrument is perfectly proportionate to her charming voice.


Nolan’s newest album, Footprints & Broken Branches comes out September 28. This collection is a follow-up to her previous albums, Phantom Hymns (from 2006) and 2010’s Black Out Nights. Both of these albums are diverse – Nolan presents an edgier, rockier outing in Black Out. In Phantom, her top tracks include “Nobody’s Fool”, “Keep You Here” and the interesting “Filler.”

Footprints & Broken Branches hits the ground running at The Hotel Café, a cozy singer-songwriter mecca in Los Angeles. Not quite the California sound or Laurel Canyon sound, songs such as “Heaven’s Name”, “Return to Spawn”, “Tumbleweed” and “Old Ravine” rely more on the banjo and violin woven through an old-timey sound. Nolan’s voice has this amazing ability to sound both young and weathered at the same time. Her singing in “Return to Spawn” calls to mind June Carter Cash or even a less country-sounding Loretta Lynn. Her lyrics may not resonate the same as “Coal Miner’s Daughter” per se, but they certainly elevate the listener experience with a simplistic foundation. “Return to Spawn” is unknown in meeting, but the vibe and feel to this song is stunning. “Tumbleweed” is like sitting in the grass on a summer day. “Heaven’s Name” channels all that is good in traditional country: moments of strong storytelling.


Calling to mind Carter Cash and even Malvina Reynolds (“Little Boxes”), the tracks from Footprints & Broken Branches find their way into a space of the mind that is saved for imagination. One doesn’t have to be from a country music-loving background to be engaged in these songs. Nolan’s way is kind and entertaining. The banjo strums along has its own character in her little plays. The mind easily wanders along the twang and the plunking in a jovial jaunt.

Nolan calls Northern California home. The Hotel Café appears to be a favorite touring spot, as she has several headlining gigs there the past few years. I think her sound and her presence (as found on her YouTube clips) will make for an interesting evening. Her entertainment value isn’t flashy – she doesn’t need to be. She sticks to the song and has a generosity with her voice – you can tell she’s about connecting with her fans rather than singing at them. She’s about giving back to the audience and being a part of something bigger than her music. I think she’s on her way. Nolan doesn’t need to keep reinventing herself. She does it because she can.

Michael Rand

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