What we often miss in the pursuit of self-actualization, while grappling with the profound alienation of the digital age, is each other. We take our own paths toward the same final destination and all too often neglect those closest to us, those facing the same tangible struggles and existential malaise. Time and circumstance shapes us, as do the paths we choose.
San Francisco-based singer-songwriter Frances England took the unlikely path of children’s music en route to the sparse, charming folk of the now. Her career itself began as a fluke. England’s first album, a home recording created as a fundraiser for her son’s school, found its way outside of her inner circle and two years later she was playing at Lollapalooza and Austin City Limits. Fast forward four albums down the line and into 2014, and we find England shedding her kindie rock skin for a stirring, minimalist adult debut, Paths We Have Worn.
Featuring delicate production by Dean Jones and backed by a remarkable cast including Cat Martino (Sufjan Stevens, The Shins) Jane Scarpantoni (Lou Reed, Nick Cave) and Ryan Lott of Son Lux, England explores adulthood in all its glory and sorrow.
“It took things not working for a long time till I finally found the right musicians who understood the type of subtlety and understated textures I wanted these songs to have,” says England, who recorded the album in Woodstock, NY at Jones’ straw bale studio.
Buoyed by acoustic guitar, quavering saw, hushed fiddle and hints of electronic music, Paths We Have Worn showcases the self-taught England in the apogee of her singing and songwriting career. Flourishes of omnichord (“Light Brings Color”), vibraphone (“Chemical Wonder”) and violin (“Sweet Bye & Bye”) further accentuate England’s autumnal melodies and tranquil croon. Shaping the music around shifting moods, she speaks of being physically, emotionally and mentally available, of seeing the good sides in our partners and appreciating the security they provide, and of attempting to reflect warmth upon those who change our lives for the better.