After a long, hot summer of short-sleeves and sunburn, there’s nothing like pulling on a sweatshirt for that first cool evening of fall. Caley Conway and the Lucy Cukes capture that feeling on their recently released live recording Live in Story Hill, a pleasantly off-the-cuff batch of folk songs recorded at a friend’s birthday party. It has all the homemade charm you’d expect under those circumstances: party chatter, clinking glasses, and the applause of what sounds like about 10 people hanging out in a living room. It’s the perfect environment for Conway’s songs – quirky, intimate yarns about cheese, saying goodbye and life on a farm that are at once casual and poignant.
Much credit goes to the Lucy Cukes – a crack team of Alex Heaton, Tim Stone and Robert Weiss – for elevating the tunes from writerly story-songs to well-wrought folk impressions. Their elegant mix of folk, country, jazz and pop is easygoing and comfortable – pleasant as background noise and rewarding with closer listens. But Conway is undeniably the star. With a rare voice and sharp, detailed lyrics, she commands the center of her songs with a quiet ease that suggests she’s been at this for a while. Though Conway and the Cukes have yet to release a proper album, they’re starting to gain steam locally and it’s easy to hear why.
Story Hill is a good live album in the sense that it conjures the time and place it was created. Though they’re not well-recorded, these songs take me there, to the living room, the lamplight and the party. But they’re more than just good ambience – these are well-crafted songs that I look forward to hearing in person this fall; ideally sweatshirt-clad.