New York, NY (Top40 Charts)
The state line between Minnesota and North Dakota is an area not often immortalized in song-until now. Brennen Leigh's upcoming concept record, Prairie Love Letter, is an ode to where she grew up, offering her to-the-point storytelling on twelve songs that showcase details of the region's dynamic landscape and its vibrant cast of characters. It's set to be released on September
18. "Don't You Know I'm From Here," out now, kicks off the album with an ode to going home-a familiar tale of expectation that nothing has changed. Wide Open Country notes, "the song reflects on the urge to reconnect with your roots and what it's like to feel like a stranger in your own home town."
"This is a collection of songs about my childhood home: the line between Western Minnesota and Eastern North Dakota," Leigh says. "I've lived away for eighteen years and been homesick every one of them."
The Nashville-based songwriter, guitar player, mandolin player and singer worked with producer Robbie Fulks on the record, recorded primarily in Nashville with players including Jenee Fleenor, Tim O'Brien, Noel McKay, and Alison Brown, among others.
"I Love The Lonesome Prairie" evokes scenes of bucolic beauty, and "Outside the Jurisdiction of Man," inspired by Willa Cather's "My Antonia," and the newly-orphaned main character's move to his grandparents' home on the plans of Nebraska, speaks to a feeling of being beautifully lost in a setting.
The character studies vary widely in range on Prairie Love Letter, but each story is a joy to listen to, including "The John Deere H" with its tribute to Leigh's dad, his first time on a tractor, and the value of telling family stories. "The North Dakota Cowboy" offers a tale about a childhood friend, or maybe sweetheart. "There's a Yellow Cedar Waxwing On The Juneberry Bush" introduces anecdotes from Leigh's grandmother, and"Little Blue Eyed Dog" was written about Leigh's dog, Bjorn, and his one blue eye and one brown eye. "Billy & Beau" centers around three friends growing up on the prairie; at least one is gay, and the song speaks to the difficulty of being oneself at home.
While the album is full of love letters to the landscape and the characters who fill it, Leigh also speaks to issues in the area. "You've Never Been To North Dakota" tells the story of an 88-year-old woman forced out of her hometown due to corporate greed. "You Ain't Laying No Pipeline" empathizes with the struggle over Native lands at Standing Rock Sacred Stone Camp in 2016.
In her home state of Minnesota, Leigh got her musical start when she began touring at age fourteen as part of a mandolin and guitar duet with her brother Seth Hulbert. While still in their teens, the sibling duo performed at the Minnesota State
Fair, toured the United States from coast to coast, and opened a string of dates for bluegrass legend Ralph Stanley.
Leigh's wise-beyond-her-years perspective comes from her hard time on the road. Her accolades prove it: she is two-time Texas Music
Awards Best Female Vocalist, 2018 Ameripolitan Music
Honky Tonk Award winner, appeared as a finalist on USA Network's Nashville Star television show in 2003, and most notably, was champion of the 1993 Vergas Loon Calling
Contest as a child in her home state of Minnesota.
In 2013, Leigh released the Gurf Morlix produced album Before The World Was Made, with her frequent songwriting and touring partner Noel McKay. She is a member of the band Antique
Persuasion, a bluegrass side project whose 2015 album Don't Forget Me Little
Darling, Remembering the Carter Family, remains a modern-day bluegrass radio standard. The same year, Leigh released a tribute to the country legend, Sings Lefty Frizzell.
Leigh's songs have been recorded by Lee Ann Womack, Rodney Crowell, Sunny Sweeney, Charley Crockett, and many others, and she has been featured as an instrumentalist and singer on myriad releases by artists such as Jim Lauderdale, Charley Crockett and James
Hand. Her music and songwriting have received praise from Rodney Crowell, Guy Clark and David
Olney over the years.
Praire Love Letter Track Listing:
1. Don't You Know I'm From Here
2. Billy and Beau
3. The John Deere H
4. The North Dakota Cowboy
5. There a Yellow Cedar Waxwing on the Juneberry Bush
Blue Eyed Dog
7. I Love the Lonesome Prairie
8. Elizabeth, Minnesota
9. You've Never Been to North Dakota
10. Prairie Funeral
11. You Ain't Laying No Pipeline
12. Outside the Jurisdiction of Man