Just how close folk music is to rock may be a question that remains unanswered, but given Laura McElroy’s connection to the rock scene via her band Comrades (signed to Facedown Records), it seems apt to give her debut full-length solo album Slow Medicine the exploration it deserves. What one finds within the 42-minute record is a heart-felt, moving, and soulful exploration of consistency in faith, the importance of friendship, hypocrisy, dependence on God in the various aspects of life, and the discomfort of trying to live life apart from Him.
Laura’s voice has nowhere to hide on this album as it is just her and her guitar for the entire runtime, and there would be no point trying to hide anyway. She delivers the words in these tracks with an accessibility and rawness that feels completely genuine and honest. It’s uncommon to come across emotion expressed this well through acoustic music, but Laura manages to convey a plethora of emotions through the chord progressions, choices of melody, and the tone of her voice.
Each song is a story that stands alone, and yet, this never results in an album that feels disjointed or disconnected. The cohesion within the album itself shows a mastery of songwriting. They all point back to God as the true source of security, value, and identity, regardless of what else may be happening in the narrative. While each song stands alone, the overall story is fascinating and one that any listener can connect with.
On Laura’s bandcamp page, she describes this album as, “the ache of loss, the joy of good company, the prayers of the wayward, scathing self-realization, and the gentle whisper of acceptance.” There may be no other song that encapsulates this description than “Transference.” In these lyrics, Laura confesses reaching a deep low, a shattering in surrendering to God that only He was able to put back together. It truly is a beautiful song.
While pointing out a single meaningful track on the album presents a true challenge, one of them does tell a particularly challenging tale of the refusal to live as God has told us to live. The appropriately titled track “Fig Tree,” based on the account of Jesus cursing a fig tree (Matthew 21:18-22 and Mark 11:12-26), is a convicting track that begs God to spare one from the same fate as the fig tree. It plays as such a fantastic metaphor, showing that we can be just as the tree. There’s a plea in what serves as the chorus of the song: “God if we meet in the dust of your feet, will you fail to wither me? God if you see I’m a renegade fiend, will you fail to wither me?” This is a humble prayer that acknowledges the failure to do consistently what He’s asked, but also to ask that He would give the strength needed to be faithful to do those things. Laura’s willingness to keep God the focus of this album is amazing without ever feeling contrived.
Laura McElroy has put together an excellent narrative-album that explores life in all it offers: the good, bad, and indifferent. There’s a sense of tranquility that can be felt while listening, almost as if it is providing rest for the listener. It is fascinating to hear this side of her and then to go and listen to Comrades; while there are similarities (obviously it’s still her voice), these songs seem to hold a greater sense of vulnerability and intimacy. One thing is for sure: whether rock or folk, we need more from such a talented and gifted individual.
Related Artists: Comrades, Dens, After Grace, and Stephen Christian