It’s always fantastic when you’re listening to an album and a song immediately grabs you, a song that — if there was any justice in this world — would be a breaking hit for the artist. However, the downside to such an event is that it’s then easy to overlook the rest of the album, to let the other songs live within that one song’s shadow and remain unappreciated in their own right.
That’s what happened to me with Melaena Cadiz’s Rattle the Windows, thanks to the song “Clay Pigeons,” a rollicking ode to a treacherous ex-lover that’s marked by swaggering banjo and lap steel, as well as Cadiz’s spirited thoughts of revenge:
If you had a heart, I’d take it down to the riverside
I’d make it sorry you ever made me care
If you had a heart, I’d break it into a thousand shards
I’d take it up to the mountain, throw it into the air
Just like clay pigeons
Shoot ‘em with a skeet gun, you missed one
Throw ‘em up again into the air
Spendin’ every day since the day you left me
While you’re runnin’ ’round, tryin’ to forget me
Down at the shootin’ range
It’s a fantastic track and I must confess, I didn’t really give the rest of the album a fair shake because I was so fixated on it. Which, as it turns out, was my mistake.
Rattle the Windows — Cadiz’s self-released debut — conjures up June Carter Cash and Patsy Cline as much as Joanna Newsom. Which isn’t to say that Cadiz doesn’t have a voice of her own, but rather, that she stands up well in a long line of female singer/songwriters who have mined the depths of Americana to great and varied results. There is, of course, “Clay Pigeons” as well as the slightly less feisty, but just barely, title track with its fiery fiddlin’ backing Cadiz’s defiance.
Cadiz isn’t all bluster, though: she’s quite adept at slower, more haunting material that’s equally emotional. Compared to the aforementioned tracks, “Blue Skies” adopts a downright romantic, even bucolic tone that is greatly enhanced by the lovely, honeyed tones of the lap steel. The aptly titled “Sleeping” is the album’s sparsest, dreamiest track, with Cadiz ruminating on daydreams, forgiveness, and encroaching winter while backed with little more than a plucked acoustic guitar and some soft chimes. Finally, “Stone Throw” finds Cadiz’s banjo adopting a spectral, quietly apocalyptic tone that conjures up haunted backroads and Appalachian towns that haven’t been touched for decades — and makes one wonder if a future duet with David Eugene Edwards is out of the question.
At this point, Melaena Cadiz’s music could go in any number of directions. There’s the feisty country-influenced route mapped out by “Clay Pigeons,” the quieter, folksier countryside explored by “Blue Skies,” or a more haunted territory glimpsed in “Stone Throw.” Whichever route she takes, Rattle the Windows clearly indicates that it will be a journey that the rest of us would do well to notice and follow.