Album Review: Laura K. Balke “Rumors & Legends”

I can still remember the first time I saw Laura K. Balke perform. I attended a small show in a Warsaw, Indiana back n the summer of 2007 at the short-lived Round Round Records store, where the Pierceton, IN native opened for an acoustic Rodeo Ruby Love, playing sweet, simple songs on her guitar, often accompanied by her younger brother on piano. Even then, I could see that with more time, dedication, and experience, her songs would grow to be stories and tales of a Midwestern life carefully observed. Now four years later, Balke has released her third full-length album, Rumors & Legends, with a more mature and evolved sound than ever before.

Rumors & Legends displays Balke’s ability to be more than just a singer-songwriter. Skillfully crafted pop, folk, and alternative styles fill this record. Enlisting the help of Bloomington musicians Zachary Walter Jetter (Humans, Th’ Empires) on percussion and Kurt Friedrich (Rodeo Ruby Love) on keyboards, this album features a more full sound, adding more emotional depth to Balke’s songs.
“Achilles”
 
Standout tracks on this album include “Achilles”, “Turn the Key”, and “Not For This”.The opening track “Achilles” is a dark and sultry tune about unexpected emotions’ it’s mysterious undertones draw in the listener instantly. The love-filled “Turn the Key” follows with light tones, vivid imagery, and an extremely pleasant banjo presence. My personal favorite is the centerpiece of the album “Not For This.” The tune begins with just Balke’s guitar and vocals:
“Not For This”

I can see the cortisone injections in my fingers now 
I can hear the cough I’m coughing as I lay me down 
I can feel the back I’m breaking finally giving out 
I never said I wanted to put a good body in the ground

It’s a song that I find strength in, when you know you are physically and mentally tired, exhausted even.  You don’t think you have the strength to climb that mountain that awaits, but suddenly, you find strength in the possibilities of life. No one wants to go out because they are just to tired to keep trying, you want to go down fighting, knowing you’ve traveled as far as you can, carried as much as you can, tried harder than you thought you could. Clocking in at just barely two-and-a-half minutes, “Not For This” is a quick tune that provides the necessary pay-off to keep on trying.
Laura K. Balke’s creativity and maturity as a multi-faceted artist keeps getting better with age. This album is a testament to Balke’s creative strive as the album also features her artwork. Released digitally as well as on translucent gold vinyl and CD, the purchase of a physical copy also includes a 16-page (vinyl) or 2-page (CD) hardbound booklet filled with arwork inspired by the songs featured on Rumors & Legends. The digital album also includes digital artwork files. The album was recorded by Jon Autry in various locations throughout the Midwest and Brooklyn, NY, including apartments, art galleries, and even a piano warehouse.
Rumors & Legends can be purchased on Laura K. Balke’s website and/or bandcamp, as well as at live concerts.
Laura K. Balke:
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