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Song You Need to Know: Margo Cilker, ‘Kevin Johnson’

[Rolling Stone]

The Oregon musician shows that she is as interested in reinvigorating Southern country-folk storytelling tropes as she is in exposing their flaws


Margo Cilker stakes out the geography of her native Pacific Northwest on her stunning debut, Pohorylle. On “That River,” that classic country-folk source of renewal becomes a symbol of danger; on “Broken Arm in Oregon,” Cilker weaves heavy imagery of abuse and injury into a poignant tale about feeling trapped (“Now I fight the urge to ramble,” she sings, “with every three-egg breakfast scramble.”)

She takes a different approach on “Kevin Johnson,” a rollicking barroom country highlight. Instead, like the Band and Gillian Welch before her, Cilker approaches Southern tropes as a non-Southern outsider, toying with them even as she remains reverent to their traditions. On its surface, the track feels like a roots-music genre exercise, with Cilker stretching out and experimenting with a collection of Southernisms (“Kevin Johnson sat on Pappy’s knee … Kevin Johnson, raised a godly man,” etc.).

Read more at Rolling Stone (warning: pay wall).