On Valley Maker's second full-length album, Rhododendron, songwriter Austin Crane sings about movement – from one kind of belief to another, from place to place, through time. This new record from Crane, a Seattle-based musician and PhD student in Human Geography, reflects both the rootedness and rootlessness that shapes his songwriting on the precipice of his third decade. Like his noted inspirations Jason Molina, Bill Fay, and Gillian Welch before him, he speaks to the strange and transitory ways we mark time through our lives. Years pass and fold in his cosmic American songs.
Crane formed Valley Maker in 2010 with a self-titled collection of songs written for his undergrad thesis project at the University of South Carolina, tracing existential questions around biblical origin narratives, as embedded in his spiritually-infused Southern upbringing. Similar themes shade his vision on Rhododendron, which follows 2015's When I Was A Child. Prophetic and apocalyptic language shapes Crane's lyrics, but his outlook is not bound by dogma. Instead, he uses the metaphors of faith to explore the ineffable and to navigate the intersection of belief, time, place, and the political present. Much of the album was written leading up to the 2016 US presidential election and in the months after as Crane was traveling for his PhD research on migration, borders, and humanitarianism. Tellingly, it grapples with what it means to share space with others as popular political discourses veer towards exclusion.
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