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Renee Wahl & the Sworn Secrets

Cut to the Bone – 2019 (Double R)

Reviewed by Robert Wooldridge

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CDs by Renee Wahl & the Sworn Secrets

Nashville-based singer/songwriter Renee Wahl cites The Beatles as her musical inspiration but it is the sound of Rosanne Cash that permeates her second full-length release. There is a recurring theme of persevering through adversity as with "Me Before You" in which self absorption in the past ("Always thinking 'bout myself/No thought of anybody else") transitions to motherly devotion ("Never thought I'd see a time/Five tiny fingers holding on to one of mine"). Similarly "What You Need," which features a vocal most reminiscent of Cash, finds Wahl displaying a sense of resolve in the aftermath of a failed relationship ("Yeah I stay here and take it/I've been the strong one before").

Two of the stronger tracks deal with mental health and substance abuse. "Meds" takes a darkly humorous approach with a timeline of a treatment options ("We tried me on Zoloft to get me off Paxil/But I lost my libido what a disaster/Then we tried Wellbutrin but that made me too fun/Remeron worked wonders, but I put on a ton"). "Six Days Til Sunday" has a gloomier take with the acknowledgement of a rough start to the week ("Cocaine for breakfast and it's only Monday") and a foreboding of the future ("These bitter pills are so hard to swallow/They make it so hard to know which path to follow").

Other highlights are "In The Field (Where You Died)," a seeming nod to Wahl's past service in the military, and the edgy title track in which Wahl cautions a grifter to keep his distance ("I'll string you up and strip you down/Tie you to the horse you rode into town"). Produced by Stuart Mathis (Lucinda Williams, The Wallflowers) the backing is solid throughout particularly with Mathis on guitar and multi-instrumentalist Billy Livsey (keyboards, strings). With Wahl's strong vocals and thoughtful compositions, this is an entertaining listen.