Small Believer

Anna Tivel

Fluff & Gravy Records, 2017

REVIEW BY: Tom Haugen


Portland's Anna Tivel is nothing if not consistent. Though her formative years were spent playing in Anna And The Underbelly, since 2014, the singer and multi-instrumentalist has been penning careful and timeless folk influenced records solo. Her insightful and eloquent details about everyday life are illuminated in her graceful spirit that runs along the same lines as Anais Mitchell, Laura Veirs, or even Gregory Alan Isakov. my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

Tivel places the warm acoustic guitar of “Illinois” in the lead off position, and her expressive, breathy pipes easily keep our attention through the indie folk ideas and poetic landscape. “Saturday Night” continues the mood with light, agile percussion and elegant melodies in the thoughtful delivery.

This is a record with no filler. The middle tracks like “Blue World” are but subtly powerful in their sophisticated approach, while “Last Cigarette” picks up the pace with a more textured approach of rhythmic blues and rock 'n' roll sensibilities. “Ordinary Dance,” one of the album's best, really showcases Tivel's charming vocal prowess with a bit of pop influence present in the stunning waltz.

Tivel bookends Small Believer strong with the intricate guitar work of “Highest Building,” where she adds much soul to the fuller tune. The title track finishes off the affair with a hint of country amid the meticulous and gorgeous songcraft that you won't forget anytime soon.

This is Tivel's fourth album, and it draws from conversations with strangers in various places across her travels. While she holds down vocals, guitar, and violin, she takes help with keys, clarinet, and banjo as well as the usual noise makers. Though it's often minimal, Tivel's work speaks volumes despite being quiet. This disc is emotionally stirring and features some of the most exceptional singer-songwriter music being made today that falls between folk and Americana.

Rating: A-

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