Audra Kubat's Million Year Old Sand is the aural equivalent of a hope chest. Within it are dreams, memories, visions, observations, regrets, sins, and meditations on life and love in its myriad, sometimes contradictory manner of revelation. Kubat is an iconoclastic songwriter: her methods of composition and articulation are unlike anybody else's on the scene. Like Joni Mitchell and Nick Drake, her vision is one that articulates itself through the song, rather than in the song. For starters, she's an accomplished guitarist in the sense that she can play exactly what she needs to in order to make her songs come across, whether that be an open, hypnotic series of fingerpicked lines as on "Light of Hope," or a shimmering series of chords that carry both verse and chorus into the heartbeat of a particular lyric narrative ("Golden Sea"). She is not held captive by standard forms and shapes. In addition, her lyric constructions here are rarely overtly self-referential, though they might indeed be sung to the Other in the mirror. The boundary between persons, first, second, and third, are hallucinatory and ambiguous. Accompanied by Eric Hoegemeyer on drums and keyboards, Kubat weaves flutes, violins, and organic percussion into her song forms, offering protagonists in various stages of awareness, and the hysterical blindness that comes from loneliness. "Georgia," is the narrative of an archetype as perceived in the transformative light of the song poet. A guitar solo by Kubat's six-string slinging husband, Matt Thibodeau, underscores the weights in her paradoxical lyric. The ringing bell that commences the minor key labyrinth of "In the Morning" is a stellar moment of clarity calling out of the murky depths of desperation and love in the human soul. "Tomorrow Never Comes" echoes Drake's empathetic lyric view of life as an ephemeral series of occurrences that are revealed only in retrospect, and the moment is merely the trapping of future disclosure. The lushly textured production with its strings, shuffling snare, woodwinds, and Kubat's husky, subdued voice intoning with equanimity the frustration and comfort in the moment, is deeply moving. On "Role," Kubat's voice assumes authority in reflecting the depth of confusion and anguish in an individual's perception of violent world events. It's one of the most effective political songs of the last ten years, as it makes the case of an individual's responsibility for her own spiritual place in a shifting political and social reality. Million Year Old Sand is a rare recording; it exists in a vacuum as far as popular music is concerned, but it does so willingly, by articulating with grace and aplomb those hidden places that defy easy categorization, easy placement, or easy sentiment. Each song is filled with the need for intimate connection, confessing isolation, loneliness, hope, and desire while never abdicating its own role in suffering, drama, or redemption. This may appear to be a self-reflective album, but in reality, is an offering of stark and beautiful reality that possesses enough experience and aspiration to be shared, as well as felt.
Share this page
AllMusic Review by Thom Jurek