Album Review: The Long Road by Rhiannon’s Lark
As vaccination appointment notifications flood our inboxes, the repercussions of the past year are often on our minds. On her new album, The Long Road, Rhiannon’s Lark (Alyssa Yeager) aims to acknowledge the reality of the challenges we’ve faced while offering stories of hope, insight, and motivation to keep us moving forward. The Troy-based polymath draws on her home orchestra (ukulele, autoharp, cello, keyboard, percussion, bass) as well as guest contributions (bagpipes, violin, flute, drums, and more) to weave medieval-tinged folk anthems for 2021.
On the opening title track, Yeager sets the tone for the rest of the album with playful percussion from Sue Balaschak of Primal Rhythm Ensemble and lyrics about the unyielding forward momentum which carries us through the peaks and valleys of life. “We walk, walk the long road,” Yeager sings, “through our trials.”
Yeager quickly pivots into “See Your Face,” her downbeat ballad about the difficulties of maintaining relationships online. Yeager’s gentle strumming and topical songwriting perfectly reflect our shared pandemic anxieties. While Yeager’s lyrical content is often anchored in the present, her instrumentation could just as easily have been pulled from the 15th century.
The third track, “Love Story” is built on the space between each triumphant strum of Yeager’s guitar, Yeager’s harmonic vocals, and is anchored by Mira Gaitanis’ lustrous violin.
Throughout this album, Yeager accompanies medieval instrumentation with insightful pop hooks, but on the eighth track “Stones Speak,” Yeager’s penchant for mysticism is center stage. Sermonic chanting, tense drums, and an eerie backing drone fill the space as the track progresses before finally giving way to bagpipes which kick in over thundering percussion.
Yet, it’s not until the ninth track that Yeager reaches the climax of this hero’s journey. The 8 ½ minute epic “Wild Swans” is driven by Yeager’s harmonies and sprite-like fingerpicking. On this track, Yeager’s magical allegories turn inward as she struggles with the departures of others, reaffirming herself in every chorus: “I am like the water flowing onwards ever on.”
In the final tracks of The Long Road, Yeager reflects once more on the social anxiety and sense of complacency that has been instilled in us over this past year before breaking into the album closer “Magic Kingdom” which daydreams wistfully of the world that Yeager hopes might one day be.