It all started with a Facebook message last July. Waiting in my inbox was a link to a YouTube video with a simple summation attached that read, “Dude, she’s special. This cover of ‘N.I.B.’, it’s wow.” And it was. It was very, very wow. The video was of a stunning redhead and her acoustic guitar playing a stripped-down and equally stunning cover of Black Sabbath’s “N.I.B.” It was like sonic shell-shock, that feeling that you are not only hearing a song you love in a way you never thought you’d hear it, but also that you may be witnessing something truly special, something very much unlike anything you’ve witnessed before.
So I waited. I waited and patiently checked in to her social media channels with semi-regularity. It was only a matter of time before the series of intriguing covers would turn into a piece of original work, something that was born directly from the soul of someone who clearly has so much of one and an old one to boot. Her name is Riley Pinkerton and her debut EP, Do You Have A Car, might be one of the most beautiful things you hear this year.
There are singer-songwriters and then there are artists that somehow dig deeper, those that are not satisfied with just penning stories of lost loves and missives about various topics that come to mind and rhymes that can be set to a catchy tune. Some artists are simply not content until they’ve been able to truly pour little bits and pieces of their soul into each note, each word, each moment. Pinkerton is of the latter. She’s an artist that writes songs that are tenacious, yet tender. They scratch and claw one moment, only to lay submissively at your feet the very next. Under the sweet and accessible exterior is a fierceness and a keen sense of observation the belies her seemingly young age. There’s a humanism about these songs that just have the potential to rock you right down to your very foundation.
She slipped into the sea, closed her eyes and breathed in anyway…
From beginning to end all of the best moments are just Pinkerton and her guitar on this album, just the two of them, alone like lost lovers on a park bench, sharing stories after years and years apart. In this perpetual moment there is no need for any others to add to the conversation. They know each other well enough to carry on alone and be content as such. What Pinkerton is able to convey with just her golden voice, her poignant lyrics, and deft guitar work is all that’s needed really. At no point is there ever a desire to hear some full backing band, some sort of brash accompaniment. This album, these songs are too intimate for that, too personal on so many levels.
From the heart-wrenching opener “Marina” to the biting whimsy of “In His Image” to the stark, indie rock aesthetics of “The Queen’s Brigade” every turn on this album is a mesmerizing array of emotions all neatly tucked away into a five-song suitcase that Pinkerton is planning her escape with. Her escape from life’s malaise and the ennui of it all will be a fiery one as she rockets towards whatever songwriting heights she reaches for. The stars are hers for the taking if she chooses to write about them, just as the attention of anyone coming across these songs will be captured as well.
The sender of that message on that warm summer day was absolutely right in his assessment – Riley Pinkerton in special. She is very special in so many ways. The expression ‘the sky is the limit’ seems trite and unable to truly convey the road that potentially lay ahead of her. But no matter where her musical travels take her nothing and no one can take away these songs, these moments forever frozen in time from her lips to your ears, forever and ever, amen.
Do You Have A Car is out now and available to experience and purchase at the Riley Pinkerton Bandcamp page. For your added listening pleasure, please enjoy the aforementioned Black Sabbath cover in the video embedded below…