Carrie and Lowell
After sonically expansive material on Illinois and The Age of Adz, Carrie and Lowell is a return to the folk approach of Seven Swans. There are some subtle electronics backing up the acoustic instruments, adding depth and flavour, but the focus is on the gentle melodies and guitar. Carrie and Lowell was inspired by Stevens’ complex relationship with his troubled mother, Carrie, and the songs were written after she passed away in 2012. Like Joni Mitchell’s Blue, the understated music focuses the listener’s attention on the emotionally naked and devastating lyrics. The opening song, ‘Death With Dignity’, states “I forgive you, mother, I can hear you/And I long to be near you/But every road leads to an end.” Second track ‘Should Have Known Better’ sets out both the issues (“When I was three, three maybe four/She left us at that video store”) and hope (“My brother had a daughter/The beauty that she brings, illumination”). He also admits his own inner turmoil and the role of his faith. Carrie and Lowell is a beautiful, courageous album, and is the strongest and most focused album that Stevens has made so far.