I took on the review of Keri Lancaster’s The Hallway Sessions knowing only that it was her debut LP. I later found out that it was recorded in her Fort Campbell, Kentucky home with help from Independent Ear Records, and that Lancaster wrote the album herself. During numerous listens, I found I had the same recurring thoughts. Briefly (I’ll expound on these points more later): songs about love and losing love with a few mysteries in the lyrics, hints of Tegan and Sara in some of the vocals, some nice acoustic picking sections, many songs sounded similar. With nine tracks clocking in at around 25 minutes, here’s a taste of what I heard:
“Tonight” features some nice acoustic finger picking and chord changes in the vocals. Lancaster makes use of at least one full octave here, and stretches out the notes a bit more than she does in other songs.
“Roni’s Song” is about a female Lancaster met at the age of 4. Apart from relishing Roni’s dark hair and blue eyes, it becomes clear that Roni was someone special: “Our friendship was unlike any other / You were like a sister and a mother…. Wish I could have just one more look”. The song is a bit mysterious in that it appears to reference Roni as a possible sister-in-law figure, but doesn’t expound on why Lancaster would never have “one last look” at her. Is the song about death, or about a relationship ending? It’s not clear, however, this is not a criticism as I am a proponent of writers not giving everything away in lyrics. It’s nice that there are a few mysteries in the lyrics here and in other songs.
“The Maze” is written in first person, present tense with some intriguing past tense references. Probably the most musically developed song on the album, its lovely piano base with backing strings are perfect for the apparent sentiment of love and loss.
“On This Paper” offers another sort of development in song; in this case vocal. It features the harmonies of label mate Clifton Derrell, which are a soothing addition to Lancaster’s soft voice.
The vocals in “Let Me Go” reminded me a little bit of Canadian alternative/pop duo, Tegan and Sara. After bit of digging, I found a cover on YouTube of Lancaster covering the the sisters’ “Call It Off”. I really enjoyed this cover and it features some of the guitar picking I appreciated in The Hallway Sessions.
The second to last song, “Don’t Go”, was by far my favourite song on the album. It combines haunting chord progressions, and I found the vocals to be the most emotive here. The vocals, in combination with the more forceful guitar, were solid and lent themselves well to the lyrics.
While I love a good stripped-back acoustic album, my biggest problem with this one is that many of the songs on the album sound alike – similar tempos, time signatures, vocals and a simple verse/chorus structure, without any bridges or extended instrumental sections to break up the songs. That said, for someone who appears to be quite young and really just starting out in the industry, having written her own album is quite an accomplishment and makes me believe she has the potential to continue to develop and grow as a singer-songwriter.
The Hallway Sessions can be found at bandcamp and on iTunes.
Written by Valerie