Barbara Jo Kammer isn’t interested in making a glossy Nashville record, and if that wasn’t evident before the debut of her new album Big Blue Sky in the Morning, I think it’s made more than obvious to listeners by the time they reach the third song in the tracklist, “Shine On.” A cover of the Daisy May staple, “Shine On” and its neighbors in Big Blue Sky in the Morning serve Kammer as a means of paying homage to the Colorado landscape and the rich music scene it’s fostering in 2020. Well-selected covers are met with but a single original track in the title cut, but in every piece of material here, our singer makes the music feel like hers and hers alone through nothing more than raw passion.
Though I would be lying if I said there was anything quite as potent as Kammer’s lead vocal in the mix, the disciplined beats in “Come from the Heart,” “Free Again,” rocker “That’ll Be the Day” and dedicated “Revival (feat. Darrell Scott),” lend a lot of additional emotionality to the big picture here without question. In using everything from her rhythms to the rhythm that supports their very existence in Big Blue Sky in the Morning, she’s able to give us the kind of full-bodied folk experience normally impossible to capture from within the four walls of a recording studio. Nothing goes unemployed by the time we reach the end of the LP, and yet I can’t point out any specific instance of overindulgence in any of the thirteen songs it features.
The chemistry between Kammer and her collaborators in Big Blue Sky in the Morning — Darrell Scott in “Revival” and Greg Blake in “A Perfect World” — is absolutely incredible, and I really hope we have the chance to hear more of it in the future. It can be difficult to record something powerful and personal with artists that aren’t on your level talent-wise, but in the case of Scott, Blake and Kammer, they’re not only matched in skill but capable of drawing elements from one another that wouldn’t be present here otherwise. We’re never confused as to who the star of the show is, and that’s likely because of how well she balances her performance with those around her.
If what I’ve just heard in Big Blue Sky in the Morning’s “Springfield Mountain Coal Miner” and “Sister’s Coming Home” are on par with what Barbara Jo Kammer is going to be producing throughout her future recordings, I would place a serious wager on her remaining a pillar of the Colorado bluegrass and folk communities for some time to come. Her attention to detail is unstoppably amazing, and while she’s mixing a lot of influences together uninhibitedly, she’s discovering an ounce of treasure for most every drop of experimentation she’s putting into the music. I’m curious to see what kind of influence her career choices have on the national underground at large, but regardless of professional depth, this is one player who has enough of a poetic sensibility to turn anyone into an Americana buff.