It may have seemed like this snowy winter was lacking something; a certain sound, perhaps, that was missing as you peered out the window watching the snowfall. Andrea Von Kampen must’ve noticed the lack of a somber soundtrack herself, as her recent album release “Old Country” fills the gap perfectly.
The collection of eight traditional folk tracks, released Feb. 8, makes up the Lincoln singer-songwriter’s first, full-length album. Von Kampen has four other releases to date, including a pair of EPs: 2015’s “Another Day,” and “Desdemona,” released the following year. Alongside those, she released a Christmas EP in 2016 and a live session courtesy of Audiotree Live.
Von Kampen’s tasteful folk songwriting style and angelic vocal chords have gained her a hefty crew of listeners. Her tune “Trainsong” has nearly 3 million streams on Spotify.
I can’t imagine “Old Country” will disappoint any of those listeners. The album illuminates all of Von Kampen’s strengths in some of her catchiest and most beautiful songs to date.
The album commences with “Tomorrow” and pops into the tune with carefully plucked guitar strings and a quaint orchestral arrangement. The verse’s chord progression serves as one of the more melancholy and eerie sounds on the album, but it still maintains its timeless beauty.
“Portland” showcases some of Von Kampen’s strongest songwriting on the album. The tune perfectly captures the feeling of running away as she croons, “If I’m lost, I’m lost on purpose, please God don’t find me.” A quiet, shuffled drum set propels the ballad forward through vast chord changes and hums that take the listener on a journey just like the one Von Kampen describes throughout the song.
One of the catchiest songs on the album, “Julia,” features a bouncy guitar riff and chord progression that makes listeners sad and introspective, yet isn’t afraid to be playful with their emotions. Von Kampen describes the character of Julia’s plight with yet another sweetly delivered vocal line, “She won’t find another, Julia is hung up on her lover.” The lyric leads right into a tasty piano solo propelled by the quick guitar backbeat that maintains the track’s sense of effervescence.
Von Kampen’s vocals are one of the most stunning aspects of the album. Her sweetly sung words convey an ample amount of emotion in every syllable, and each note is hit with ease. There’s never any strain for Von Kampen, as her flowing vocal melodies build soothing and beautiful tunes. The clarity in her voice is noteworthy as well; each word is easily heard and remembered, making the emotional effect of the songwriting even stronger.
“Old Country” rarely, if ever, utilizes amps, synthesizers or any other instruments that require an outlet. This makes each track feel vividly human and natural, which is just what Von Kampen’s folk songs need.
The last song on the album, “If You See Her, Say Hello,” throws away all extra instrumentation, exposing the root of every song on the album –– Von Kampen, alone with her acoustic guitar. The finale track makes for one of the most touching and intimate performances on the album. Her buzzing hums and fingerstyle guitar sound like the end of a romantic film soaked in nostalgia. This feeling permeates every note of the album and by no mistake. In “If You See Her, Say Hello,” Von Kampen sums up the treasure trove of emotion in the album when she whispers “I know every scene by heart; it all went by so fast.”
The warm timbre of Von Kampen’s folk prowess resonates on every plucked note of “Old Country,” and the sentiment poured into the songs consistently echoes back.