If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it is a sensible approach when following up an acclaimed debut. Margo Cilker’s Pohorylle was widely hailed as one of the best Americana albums of 2021, a set of simple but allusive songs delivered in relaxed, narrative style and with minimal accompaniment. Valley of Heart’s Delight reconvenes much the same musicians in the same studio, with producer-drummer Sera Cahoone again in charge. The title refers to Cilker’s California roots, once full of apricot orchards but now hi-tech Apple land. After her peripatetic 20s, she now lives in Washington state.
There’s a strong streak of nostalgia in the songs. I Remember Carolina is a joyous travelogue across the US (“I remember seeing Dylan/ he tipped his hat at me”) delivered with honky tonk piano, and the same retrospective mood is explored more earnestly on Sound and Fury. The accompaniment on this second album is fuller – opener Lowland Trail has a canyon-deep guitar twang, and elsewhere come touches of pedal steel and accordion – but slower pieces such as With the Middle sometimes simply plod. What’s never in doubt is the authenticity of the “missteps and redemption” detailed in its songs, or their engaging, personal delivery.
• The headline and text of this article were amended on 10 September 2023. An earlier version misnamed the album as Valley of Heart’s Desire.