It can be difficult for a musician to draw something new from the depths of the singer-songwriter aesthetic—so many people have wandered through this musical territory that the tendency is to take the sounds of past years and create a noise that mimics them. But for Chattanooga artist Jade Alger, this idea of personal adaptation isn’t so much an obstacle as it is a challenge to find the most interesting ways to deconstruct our assumptions about the genre.
With the release of his last record, “Unfolding the Muse,” back in 2016, Alger took to the pastoral walkways of ’60s and ’70s folk histories, a gentle exploration of classical guitar influences and the realization of some tenaciously emotional revelations. And now, he’s announced a new album, “Kinora,” due out March 17.
For some of these new songs, he’s altered his approach a bit. Whereas the songs on “Unfolding the Muse” were rooted in classical guitar structures, a handful of the new ones have origins in his work with the cello. He’s no stranger to orchestral arrangements; his past releases were filled with swatches of strings. But they were always in service to the larger folk design he was creating.
He gathers musicians from Russia, Holland, Colombia, Israel, England, Germany and the United States to help him add nuance to his music. He explores ideas of self-searching travel, nostalgia, romance and unexpected calamity. But the heavy gravitational pull of these themes is balanced by the delicate melodies and acoustic echoes that flow from his folk-influenced rhythms.
On his new single, “When the Last Bird Sings,” Alger rolls through a landscape of acoustic guitar, ethereal vocals and breathless cello rhythms (all of which are provided by him). For the accompanying lyric video, he uses footage from his time traveling across Slovakia, interspersing clips of him holding lyric cards with images of snowcapped mountains, a claymation bird and small villages. It’s a gorgeous and appropriately tranquil clip that underscores the emotional weight of his lyrics and the pristine geography of those surroundings.
The single can be purchased through Alger’s Bandcamp page. He’ll offer a vinyl version of the track at some point in the future, which will feature a bonus song called “Juliana.” With the release of “Kinora” only a couple of months away, “When the Last Bird Sings” is a welcome glimpse of what we can expect when the full album comes out.
Joshua Pickard covers local and national music, film and other aspects of pop culture. You can contact him on Facebook, Twitter or by email. The opinions expressed in this column belong solely to the author, not Nooga.com or its employees.