Singer/Songwriter Jill Andrews, is a Nashville based singer-songwriter who is known for her folk and bluegrass sounds from her time as part of The Everybodyfields. Andrews has toured with The Avett Brothers, with Seth Avett making an appearance on the song ‘I’m so in Love with You’; she has collaborated with soul singer Anderson East on his song ‘Say Anything’; and has had her songs featured on Grey’s Anatomy.
“The War Inside”, produced by Will Sayles, is Andrews’ second full length album and the first one that sees her moving away from the bluegrass elements that comprised the sound of her old band, and moving into the realm of indie pop. However, like with all change and progression, it does not mean that our roots are ripped up and disposed of. Andrews brings her folk sensibilities with her, and her lyrical fodder is still very much rooted in the traditions of country music storytelling.
Andrews says the album “touches on the daily struggles of being pushed and pulled in many directions, and trying to find the best version of myself within it all.” “The War Inside” is a collection of songs that span the full spectrum of what it is to be fully engaged with life; its’ downfalls and hardships and the moments where you rise like a phoenix from the ashes.
The track ‘Free’ is one of those moments. Written about the aftermath of her marriage and subsequent divorce. The track is a slow build but nevertheless gives you feel of steadily moving forward. With the layered background vocals and heartbeat of drums, not only pushes the song forward but also gives the listener the feeling of being pushed onward towards something better. All great songs have that “moment” or should have, where the lyrics or the melody hits you right where you need it to hit you, and this song’s moment come in Andrew’s utterance of the lines;
“I’m free from the shackles/ Free from the chains/ Free from the heartache, the struggles and the pain/ And I’m free.”
Of that line, that I suspect anyone who listens to the album will hold onto, Jill says, “One day I just picked up my guitar and sang that line. It just fell out of me. Everybody has shackles and chains. I got divorced a while back. It wasn’t great – the marriage. ‘Free’ is a victory song.”
The song ‘Cannibal’ which I reviewed previously, follows on from ‘Free’, which is fitting as it’s all about letting go and letting your physical side take over; allowing your desires to run wild and unshackled.
‘Get Up, Get On’ is the sister track to ‘Free’, about acknowledging the difficulties and the heartaches of life but of the importance or rather the necessity of carrying on, or to quote the song, “get up, get up, and get on”. The song is pure indie pop with the soaring vocals and fast paced guitars. The song was written for Andrews’ Aunt who had lost two children. But like all good songs, though intensely personal, as a listener you can find yourself within the lyrics.
“Cover up the war inside/ The most beautiful part of ourselves/ Is the part we hide.”
The track ‘I’m Not Okay’, a haunting love song about a relationship spiralling downwards and knowing you should be trying to disentangle yourself but also knowing that if you let go now, you will never know if the relationship could have been saved. ‘I’m Not Okay’ has one of the most beautiful instrumentals filled with that ache and longing and hope that Andrews sings of.
“How would I ever know/ If I never tried/ If I never tried to love.”
The instrumental elements of each song on ‘The War Inside’ are not just fillers or there to make the song sound pretty, though they do that too. Andrews’ somehow constructs and arranges the instrumental parts of the songs to sound like an extension of her own voice and a continuation of the story the song is telling. You can feel yourself getting lost in the electric guitar riffs or the piano solos, and feeling that these parts are actually another part of the story; maybe one that cannot be vocalised.
Her collaboration with Seth Avett on the song ‘I’m so in Love with You’ is perhaps one of the most heartbreaking songs on “The War Inside”. A story told from the perspectives of two lovers who are both desperately in love with one another but are waiting on the other to say how they feel.
“Cos I’m so/ I’m so in love with you/ You know I can control it/ Acting like such a fool/ I’m so in love with you/ Here’s to wishin’ and hopin’/ And waitin’ to hear it from you/ Let me hear it from you.”
As a listener, it’s like watching two friends who are so perfect for one another not do anything because they are both wishing and hoping on the other person to say the words.
‘Sweet Troubled Man’ is a personal favourite of mine off the album. Andrews recently did a Daytrotter Session where the song was performed stripped back to just a voice and guitar, and it lost none of its’ melancholy or fragility. The song is very much full of the country and folk roots that Andrews has brought with her from her early career. It tells the story of trying to hold onto someone or something so fragile as it’s slipping through your fingers.
“Sweet troubled man are you giving or taking/ I feel my heart burning and breaking/ Love, don’t leave.”
The song has that warm, Southern feel of balmy evenings and wide-open landscapes, full of hope and longing accompanied by Jill’s beautiful vocals and a slide guitar acting as the current throughout the song.
“Big yellow sun are you rising or falling/ I hear the birds gently calling/ Love, find me.”
‘Rust or Gold’ is a perfect end to the record. A cautionary tale about how it is ultimately you and your outlook that decide how your life unfolds. It can shine like gold or decompose and turn to rust.
“Rust or gold you decide/ What you see, what you hold/ Let it burn there in your hand/ Or watch it grow, watch it grow/ Breath of life come and fill your lungs/ And give it away until its’ gone/ Or hold it in and let it die/ Let it die, let it dies.”
“The War Inside” is a beautifully complex yet simple record that is sonically and lyrically full. A record in which everyone from all walks of life will find a part of themselves tangled up in stories, be that the heartbreak, the hurt and the sorrow or the belief, desire and energy for love and life.