photo credit : Rose Kaz
In April 2018, Kramer returned to the studio to record her third full-length album. Valley of the Bones is a triumphant collection of original songs that illustrate and explore the expression human of love in all its various forms.
Tracked mostly live (including the vocal performances,) at Sound Temple Studios in Asheville, N.C., Kramer teamed up with her frequent collaborators: Free Planet Radio musicians River Guerguerian, Chris Rosser and two-time Grammy Award winner Eliot Wadopian; as well as Billy Cardine. The album also includes performances by Nicky Sanders of The Steep Canyon Rangers on violin and Asheville Symphony Orchestra musician Franklin Keel on cello.
The collection of 10 original songs was engineered, mixed and produced by Adam Johnson of Sound Lab Studios and co-produced by Kramer and Chris Rosser. Kramer says of bringing the earliest, tentative versions of her songs to Johnson and Rosser for arrangement help and production ideas, "I have never trusted two people more with my art. In the past, I have seldom let people hear my songs until I felt that they were polished, but as my musical relationship with and respect for [Johnson] and [Rosser] have deepened, it felt important to me to to involve them from the beginning".
"I know that the songs and the record as a whole are much stronger for it, and their gentle but firmly constructive approach has made me a better artist. I've been looking for such allies and mentors for a long time," she adds.
While most of the aforementioned musicians accompanied Kramer on her acclaimed 2016 release Carnival of Hopes, listeners will hear a distinct difference in the band's chemistry, cohesion and almost electric intuition with one another on Valley of the Bones.
"Simply put, it's because we've been playing together a lot over the past three years since I've moved back home to Asheville," she says. "We've gotten to know each other personally, had a little time on the road together, sold out some shows in theaters together and have built an incredible mutual respect. We had genuine fun in the studio. I think all of that translates and comes through on the record."
Valley of the Bones' songs tackle a breadth of subject matter, ranging from marriage to miscarriage. Spirituality and self-acceptance are expressed with poetic grace, vulnerability and unapologetically honest grit. Kramer's endearing, self-effacing humor is also on full display. This warm, easy storytelling is paired with rich, nuanced arrangements that aren't afraid to be simple when called for, and are punctuated with the unmistakably bittersweet southern wail of Billy Cardine's dobro.
Standout tracks include the gutsy and reflective "Hymn" (which was a "homework assignment" from Mary Gauthier, Kramer's musical mentor) the undeniably smart and sassy "Waffle House Song", and the profoundly poetic and transcendent title track "Valley of the Bones". This song was dubbed a "masterpiece" by Lydia Hutchinson of Performing Songwriter Magazine. Also noteworthy are the quirky and hilarious country zinger "I'll See Your Crazy and Raise You Mine" and the sweet, earnest "Singin's Enough" which speaks candidly of the struggles of a touring musician.
All of the songs on Valley of the Bones show Kramer arriving confidently and comfortably at home inside as both a woman and a masterful songwriter after over twenty years of honing her craft.
Kramer will be celebrating the release of the album with a full band show at Ambrose West in her hometown of Asheville on March 2nd.