WITH a third album of heartfelt, bell-clear folk songcraft due out in the autumn on Fat Possum’s Big Legal Mess imprint, Black Mountain, North Carolina-based Alexa Rose has released a sweet and ethereal evocation of those endless days of childhood summer, the sun hot and high, the evenings endless, the sense of expectancy and joy so potent you can almost smell it, entitled “Clearwater Park”. Come inside and feel those heartstrings get tugged.
It’s not just a place vanished from the present she’s missing, you come to understand, as she sings with a gentle guitar figure and a wash of organ, “But I don’t remember the street that you live on … I just remember the turns in the road.”
Alexa then pulls us back to the the greyer days of now, sitting alone on a porch, remembering: “Feels like a ghost town tonight with the paper mill lights burning holes in the cloak of the dark.” Should she reconnect, with a feeling this intense? Almost. Almost: “I knew you’ve been trying to reach me / Since I left school and moved out of state … I saved your voicemail … I tried to call, but I don’t have your number saved in my phone.”
Alexa explains the story behind the song: “During the first few months of the pandemic, I was consistently having a hard time falling asleep. Instead of getting sucked into Netflix or just staring at the ceiling, I begrudgingly forced myself to go sit on my front porch and look at the stars in an attempt to, you know, feel alive or something.
“It brought back this memory of the dead end road I grew up on, where at night it felt consumingly dark except for a lone street light positioned just in front of our house. I would sit underneath that street light with a friend on summer weekends and we’d eat bowls of sugary cereal, just talking and forgetting about time.
“At this point in my life, I’m getting to know the way a decade feels in a conversation. I realised I hadn’t called this friend of mine in a long time, and I was asking myself why.
“Maybe sometimes we just want to hold on to the golden memory we have of a person – so much that we are afraid to interrupt it with the present. Or maybe we just get busy. But no matter how much time passes, I still have moments when I feel like that kid sitting in the road.
“And it’s so precious to me that before you ever learn how to drive or understand navigating the world in a concrete sense – you know how to get to your best friend’s house by heart. And you’ll never forget.” How true, how universal; how beautifully recounted.
Originally from Alleghany County, Virginia, Alexa grew up singing and playing piano, but she didn’t begin to develop her songwriting until she was in her early twenties, leaving home for the first time after college.
“I take pride in where I’m from,” she says, “and my appreciation for community and the value of small towns definitely informs my writing.
“But there’s also what comes from touring, the joy of driving around and seeing the rest of the world. That’s just as much an influence as where I’m from.”
Alexa’s new album captures the sweetness of life without avoiding the pain of it, too. Recorded over five sessions in Memphis, she would sometimes bring songs into the studio written the night before and record them the next day, capturing that freshness.
Alexa says: “I feel like this new record is the first time I’ve ever let my whole self into the room. The parts of me that are angry and wanting to stand up and the parts that want to be quiet. The parts that remember being a kid. Letting myself release all of that in the studio and having all these people back me up and make it work was a tremendous gift.”
Alexa Rose’s “Clearwater Park” is out today via all digital streaming platforms.