So much folksy lady rock, so little time. Add Kendl Winter’s Apple Core to the ever-lengthening list of guitar-loving, country-inspired singer-songwriters with a flair for bluegrass. It may not be terribly original, but Winter makes a fine effort on her fourth solo album. At times, her work is hauntingly beautiful; at others, it’s frustratingly cliché.
“Everyone’s so avant garde,” Winter sings on “Made It Through the Yellow,” perhaps referring to the sudden rise in folk hipster chic that makes committed musicians cringe. Should there be more beards and flannel on stage or in the crowd? On “Waiting for the Taker,” a would-be somber track about death with a jaunty guitar riff, she reminisces about apple pies, loyal dogs, and droopy-eyed cowboys.
A tribute to the late abortion provider, “Dr. Tiller” is clearly a lovely sentiment, if not the most enchanting song. Descriptive lyrics about the doctor’s murder feel more appropriate for some sort of spoken word tribute. In a song, phrases like “I’m walking through a mob of pro-lifers just to get a pap smear” feel awkwardly earnest and self-referential without any possibility of reaching people unfamiliar with the story or less than sympathetic about George Tiller’s fate.
Winter is a great talent. It isn’t her fault that so many artists in the last few years have grabbed washboards and banjos and sound oh-so-similar in their nature-themed crooning. While I’m perfectly content listening to Apple Core, if I’m looking for folksy jams, I’ll admittedly seek out albums by Mountain Men, Fleet Foxes, or even some old Wilco first.