Time for a confession: I am a sucker for acoustic folk music. I grew up listening to Bob Dylan, and a nice, full-sounding guitar brings back memories of summer evenings spent lying on my bed listening to “Don’t Think Twice, It’s Alright” on repeat. Justin Vernon and the talented Samuel Beam (better known as Iron & Wine) have a very special place in my heart that’s hard to replace… but after a few listens of Chris Bathgate’s Salt Year I can say without hesitation that he’s moving up in the ranks of my favorite folk artists.
We were lucky to get our paws on an early copy of Salt Year, which will be released on April 26. I was surprised to find out it’s actually Bathgate’s fourth full-length (um, what rock have I been hiding under?). According to a press release, the album comes after a period of personal tumult that he refers to as “The Salt Year,” explaining that the “songs are the battle cry for that time.”
Whatever pain or misfortune Bathgate experienced, it shows only subtly in his music. On the 11 tracks, his voice is thick and rich, and while some of the songs are tainted with sadness, others are wonderfully uplifting. Some of the songs (like “In the City”) have an alt-country twang, which comes across as genuine rather than forced, while others are stripped down and feature Bathgate’s beautiful guitar plucking (“Poor Eliza” being one of my favorites).
You can download a free copy of the single “Salt Year” (featured here) on Bathgate’s website, but you’re just going to have to be patient and wait until April to experience this gorgeous folk album in its entirety!