On Aug. 20, West Virginia native Sierra Ferrell released her first album, “Long Time Coming.” It follows a small collection of Christmas covers and the single release versions of “Jeremiah” and “Why’d Ya Do It?”
The album, labeled as singer/songwriter, starts off with “The Sea” which is the haunting kind of beautiful song you’d expect to hear floating around an old ball room. But it is unmistakably country-fied, comprised of guitar, fiddle, mandolin, upright bass, and banjo throughout.
Ferrell’s vocals are reminiscent of June Carter Cash or Leslie Gore, vowels remaining almost entirely true to the international phonetic alphabet, all while maintaining a firm grasp on the twang that completes her sound. This rings especially true in “West Virginia Waltz” as she builds in the final chorus of the song “The last time I saw him we did the West Virginia waltz / The West Virginia waltz / No one holds a flame to you” producing a wonderfully full belt, pulling herself forward from the choir which harmonizes in the background. This track is noticeably more stripped down than the others, yet it holds its footing all the same.
While her vocals are profound on their own, her talent for instrumentation shines on “Far Away Across the Sea” as a plucked out Latin inspired guitar and a slapped bassline lead her words, “Far away across the sea, my true love he don’t think of me / I still remember on my fingers, in my skin.” Upon first hearing it, I was reminded of the “Kill Bill” soundtrack, and I still stand by the comparison.
The through-line here is undoubtedly heartbreak and emotionalism, be it in relation to self (“In Dreams”) or for others (“Jeremiah”); there is a consistent air of longing or love lost. This creates an interesting parallel between each track, illustrating each bit of pain in a different way and unveiling a complexity that doesn’t show standing alone.
I would be remiss in this respect should I not bring up “Made Like That.” It stands out as a wistful ballad, chock full of vulnerability and mourning the loss of home, showing unwavering sense of self. “I am made like that / I just wasn’t made for these times/ I’m leaving home / I’m leaving home / I’m so sorry Momma I gotta go”.
Finishing out the album is the tear-jerking “Whispering Waltz,” another ballad, but this one is of settling anger and peacemaking, with lines like, “But my love is eternal, a flame never endin’ / So the tears down my cheeks how they flow / now you don’t have to whisper I know” following what should be resentment. This is the perfect way to end this album — this is the part of the story where the speaker has accepted all of this hurt, and makes peace with it, making a home for it in their heart. They accept that there will always be love for this person somewhere in them.
“Long Time Coming” is at its core about empathy — feeling it, being hurt by it, recovering from it. It’s candied heartbreak, and it’s delicious. Though, you will not escape this album without a heavy dose of Appalachian pride, Ferrell sings of a home in the mountains of West Virginia and shows the best way to break your own heart is to leave it. It’s clear this is an artist, like many of the Mountain State, who has not been untouched by their home.
Sierra Ferrell separates herself from the broader, more mainstream genre of country music in favor of a more bluegrass-walked-into-Hot-Topic vibe. Overall this album is definitely worth more than a few listens, It’s earned its place in libraries and collections of all kinds.