Brooke Waggoner seems to wobble between being a ghost and being a girl who might like ponies and getting dressed up on occasion. The orange-haired, Nashville native shifts herself between heavily orchestrated dramas and pieces that seem as if they'd prefer to haunt the empty hallways of a deserted house, with a failing roof and wolf dogs living within it as freeloaders.
She makes moments that feel like she threw an over-sized feather pillow up into the devouring blades of a sharpened fan, sending those feathers showering down like a soft snowfall. She makes moments that feel and look like the barest of nights -- nights that are good for wandering, good for clearing all of the junk out of your head, nights that you need every once in a while, nights that freeze the lungs some.
Then she makes moments that give you the chills - for a combination of reasons. You're not frightened of them, but what she does is she and her talented players (some of which have been performing in Jack White's band of late) own the tempo, they own our nerves and they can persuade us with their expert fluctuations, inflections and decisions to get slightly strange with an arrangement to let go of the handles and just free fall from whatever height they push us out from.
It feels as if she puts exaggerated heights into her music - mostly to enhance the breathtaking views that she introduces us to. She powers her songs with a force that's unable to be completely defined as it shares some of the characteristics with Joanna Newsom's whimsical fairy dusting, as well as old-time Nashville sensibilities (with the slightest twist and some different instruments, Waggoner's songs could be country and western songs and she'd have to start dressing differently, wearing boots and flannel 24 hours a day) and the watery eyes of a deer caught in the headlights on what seconds ago had been a dim county highway and a slow, moonlit crossing. Hers is place where pining doesn't happen, where the wind is knocking against a swinging door, where it's flowing through the vulnerable and lively pear trees out back, where nothing's bad, but nothing's good is delightfully eerie.
*Essay originally published September, 2010