Denver-based Americana/folk singer-songwriter Kelly Augustine is set to release her debut album, Light in the Lowlands, on April 5, 2019. Recorded and produced by Grammy-nominated producer Wes Sharon (John Fullbright, the Turnpike Troubadours, The Grahams), the album explores stories of darkness and salvation through poetic lyrics and an authentic command of a variety of Americana musical idioms. The album takes its deep grounding in folk themes and updates the songbook with today’s stories.
“There are stories in this world that need to be told,” says Augustine. “The essential human story involves pain and suffering, but it also involves beauty, hope and redemption. It’s my aim, as a songwriter, to shed light on all of it. Stories that make us feel more connected and less alone, stories that shake us up and call us to action – those are the stories I want to tell.
The title Light in the Lowlands metaphorically references hope in low personal times. The album is rich with character sketch stories of drug addiction, alcohol abuse, loneliness, and poverty, but there are also stories of resilience and healing. Light in the Lowlands is also a delight for fans of Americana who long for current, emotionally-resonant songs along the lines of Bob Dylan, John Fullbright, Lyle Lovett, Emmylou Harris, Mark Knopfler, and Lucinda Williams. Augustine’s songs brim with warmly intimate instrumentation, and each song is detailed to create distinct Americana soundscapes befitting its impressionistic story.
The album’s debut single, “Hurt Too Big,” features an elegantly essential arrangement with delicate finger-picked guitar passages supporting Augustine’s sweetly sorrowful vocals as she recounts a loss-of-innocence soldier’s tale. Although the song was inspired by the stories of veterans returning from war, its emotional quality is universal: we all survive wars in our minds and hearts. “Debbie” is a sprightly twang number replete with chicken pickin’-style guitars and brisk fiddle lines. Its pep seems in line with poking a little fun at a helpless lady in the throes of addiction. Yet, as the song progresses, it details her backstory, deftly shifting the mood from outlandishness to compassion.
“Second Chances” is a teardrop 1950s-style ballad based on true stories. It is unflinchingly romantic and represents some “light” in Light in the Lowlands. It’s a sweet song that leaves the listener rooting for a win. With “Thunder On The Mountain,” Augustine shows her ability to write Americana evergreens. The song’s moodiness conjures the feel of Appalachian folk, but its contemporary bluesy guitar evokes the masterful writing of Mark Knopfler.
At Wes Sharon’s 115 Recording in Norman, Oklahoma, Sharon and Augustine were joined in the studio by multiple musicians including Gabriel Pearson of the Turnpike Troubadours on drums and percussion and legendary roots royalty Byron Berline on fiddle and mandolin. “Hearing all the musicians breathe life into my music was an emotional experience,” Augustine says. “There were moments in the studio that I’d consider golden moments of my life, and I’m so grateful to have had that experience. I’ll never forget it.”
Growing up down an unpaved road in a dirt-under-your-fingernails small Oklahoma town, Augustine saw poverty and desperation, but she also saw people rise above it. The performer was raised by parents who lived the political and social volatility of the 1960s. Her mother and father soundtracked the house with Vietnam War-era folk music. Gripped by its ethos, Augustine was moved by individual and collective narratives of struggle. She loved the idea that one could challenge reality and seek to right personal and societal injustices with storyteller music. “My heart hurts for people in chains from addiction, abuse, and self-loathing,” Augustine says. “I want to see people get free. I hope my music can shed light on human suffering in a way that pushes us toward compassion.” After a decade working as a physician assistant, she grew restless in her career choice and quit her job to pursue one simple goal – write songs that spoke to people. “This record started with some far-fetched dreams, and it has been redemptive and healing to see those dreams become reality,” she says. “I found myself again.”
Augustine’s literate and emotive lyrics and penchant for a variety of Americana songwriter traditions have earned her a bevy of accolades and awards. Augustine was chosen as a 2018 Kerrville New Folk Finalist as well as a 2018 Al Johnson Performing Songwriter Contest Finalist (Wildflower! Arts & Music Festival). The first single off Light in the Lowlands, “Hurt Too Big,” was premiered in 2018 by the online outlet The Daily Country as an introduction to the forthcoming album.
Augustine plans some live shows in support of Light in the Lowlands. Tour dates and details will be announced soon.
Light in the Lowlands
2. Second Chances
3. Hurt Too Big
4. Love Letter
5. Can’t Get Enough
6. Thunder on the Mountain
7. You Don’t Know How to Love Me
8. Kindred Heart
9. Seeds of Hope
10. Leaving You