After releasing her much-admired debut album, Pohorylle, in 2021, Americana singer-songwriter Margo Cilker releases her sophomore album, Valley of Heart’s Delight, whose title signifies Cilker’s California heritage, where she grew up in the Santa Clara Valley, a place formerly decorated by orchards, now replaced by cement, parking lots, and tech start-ups.
Cilker explains, “I wrote these songs surrounded by the wild landscapes of the Northwest, but I was leaning toward the place I’d come from. I felt cut off from my family and the valley that held them. I spent hours thinking about my sense of belonging. I’d travelled through many places, and then, when the travel stopped, I ruminated on where I had ended up. Where were you when the music stopped? I was in Enterprise, OR. And there in Enterprise, my mind drifted back to the ‘Valley of Heart’s Delight.’”
Encompassing 11 tracks, entry points on Valley of Heart’s Delight include opener “Lowland Trail,” an undulating, twang-laced tune dripping with nostalgic flavours topped by the delicate, delicious drawling tones of Cilker’s evocative voice.
A personal favourite because of its honky-tonk piano and bouncy-lite rhythm, “I Remember Carolina” revels in a crying steel guitar, sawing fiddle, and gleaming guitars as Cilker displays her luscious, Southern intonations, narrating her experiences travelling across the country. “I remember seeing Dylan / he tipped his hat at me.”
“Mother Told Her Mother Told Me,” another gem of a song because of its darker colouration, rides finessed, rumbling percussion, allowing Cilker to strut her lusciously nuanced vocals, vibrating with various tonal inflexions as the steel guitar weeps haunting hues. “Mother told her mother told me / What was out under the family tree / I don’t need this town, I will always find another / Even if I often wander back again. Oh, the love / The way it cuts / Better than a knife / Bleeding for a lifetime.”
Highlighted by a low, braying organ and a lonesome harmonica, “Santa Rosa” flows on soft, creamy harmonics, radiating memorable sighing textures. The upbeat “Steelhead Trout” brims with animated blushes, forming a lively, hoe-down-like ambience.
The penultimate track, “Sound and Fury,” rolls and sways on a contagious rhythm, featuring an array of scrummy instruments, infusing the tune with tints of rising and falling gospel aromas while Cilker gives the lyrics suggestive urgency. There’s a wistful, slow burn of longing running through Valley of Heart’s Delight, gorgeously conveyed by the luxurious voice of Margo Cilker.