If Only There Was A River by Anna St Louis


Gary Leeds of The Walker Brothers was born in Glendale, California. Ray Dorset of Mungo Jerry was born in Middlesex. Cisco Houston, a folk singer who recorded with Woody Guthrie, was born in Wilmington, Delaware. Whitney Houston was born in Newark, New Jersey. Judith Durham, of The Seekers, was born in Victoria, Australia. David Cook was born in Essex and changed his name to David Essex.

Anna St Louis was born in Kansas City which is 250 miles from St. Louis. Kansas City is a metropolitan area that consists of two cities, Kansas City, Kansas and Kansas City, Missouri. These two cities are separated by the Missouri River. Anna St Louis’ great great grandfather moved to Kansas City but would never talk about his background so no one in her family knows from where their name originates.

Luckily, there is no confusion about Anna St Louis’ first album, “If Only There Was A River.” It’s a work of sumptuous beauty. Lasting a perfect 39 minutes, the 11 songs feature her marvellous voice, intricate guitar playing along with subtle, understated musical adornment from Kevin Morby.

Kevin Morby has lived in Kansas City and he first saw Anna St Louis singing in a punk band. He has released six solo albums and he produced the album along with Kyle Thomas whose home studio in Los Angeles was used to record the album.

The opening song, “Water”, ostensibly describes a secret swimming area. As the song progresses and Oliver Hill’s violin alternates between a soothing single note and some John Cale-esque blasts, it becomes clear that Anna St Louis is comparing jumping into the water with jumping into a relationship.

“The Bells” is a tale of foreboding. As Anna St Louis is walking down a street, she senses a shadow looming over her. She can hear bells foretelling doom. It becomes clear that she is walking away from a relationship whose time is over and she fears the future that awaits her. Justin Sullivan’s hand drumming and Oliver Hill’s violin transform the song from a folk standard to a chilling movie soundtrack.

This style of writing appears on many of the songs of the album. A simple start describing an everyday situation with a sparse accompaniment develops into a more reflective lyric, examining her own feelings at the same time as more instrumentation heightens the emotional impact.

The title song is the climax to the album and Kevin Morby’s Wurlitzer provides a musical backdrop to Anna St Louis wailing that she needs a river to drown out her tears. Kevin Morby chants “If only” as she repeats the title over and over.

Albums of such beauty, sophistication and intelligence must be treasured. It’s been an unremitting pleasure to get to know this album today.

Published by wilfulsprinter

Music lover

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: