Martha Schulyer Thompson - Road Kill

Road Kill

Martha Schuyler Thompson


Cottage Industry Music
1540 Chemeketa Street N.E.
Salem, Oregon 97301

A review written for the Folk & Acoustic Music Exchange
by Kerry Bernard

When I sat down to read the lyrics of Martha Schuyler Thompson's latest CD "Road Kill", I nearly drove the friend seated beside me insane. As he tried, in vain, to read a book, I found myself constantly slapping him, saying, "Oh! Oh! Listen to this line!" Irritated though he was by my frequent interruptions, he couldn't help but enjoy the lyrics as much as did; they're that good.

On Thompson's newest release on her own label, Cottage Industry Music, she lives up to her reputation as being articulate and colloquial in the same breath, witty and poignant in the next. With a voice and style that could be passed off as belonging to the bastard child of Mary Chapin Carpenter and Laura Love, Thompson layers extremely quotable lyrics over strong, guitar-based tunes (with some wonderful bass, fiddle, and, believe it or not, "assorted auto parts" percussion thrown into the production). The end product is an album of articulate, memorable songs- the kind you find yourself humming, even when you've only heard them once.

And Road Kill is an aptly named album if ever there was one. The entire framework for the album seems to be one of traveling, in both a literal and figurative sense. Though the title insinuates a cynical twist to traveling's usual "heading for something new and wonderful" connotation, Thompson seems to give her audience the sense that, like anything else, journey's have their ups and downs- one minute you're on a smooth, open highway, the next you're bouncing over a dusty dirt road. Two songs that perfectly illustrate this oxymoronic reality are Prairie Schooner and the title track, Road Kill:

So I drove on through Chicago with a half tank of gas
Heading toward the sunset on this westbound overpass
Turned the radio up loudly as it played a country song
The reception cackled wildly and I sang the words all wrong

-- Prairie Schooner

Contrast Prairie Schooner's sunset in the distance and wonderful image of a woman belting out invented lyrics to country tunes to this sombre (yet somehow witty) verse from the album's title track:

And now there's bones up in my chassis
And blood upon my wheels
A carcass on the interstate
And i know how it feels

- Road Kill

Thompson, herself, admits that the inspiration for many of the songs on this album was the experience of having been on the road, enjoying the new adventures that touring brought her but also missing her family at home. That bittersweet journey - the joy you feel as you pull out of your driveway and take off for a new place followed by the even greater joy you feel when you pull back into that driveway a few weeks later - peppers Road Kill and adds to its overall quality of earthiness and familiarity. Though the album has a sense of "sameness" to it, in the sense that the songs all draw on a very similar musical style (an eclectic mix of folk, rock, blues, and twang), the style is a solid one and is one that works well for Thompson. The result is a strong album of strong songs written and performed by what is, obviously, a very strong woman.

Track List:

  • All Right Without You
  • A Heart That's True
  • Casting My Net
  • I Have Been There Before
  • Piece Work
  • Road Kill
  • Waterjar Girl
  • Gravity
  • The Wild Grasses
  • Prairie Schooner
  • Thirst for Life
  • Shake It
  • Edited by David N. Pyles

    Copyright 1998, Peterborough Folk Music Society.
    This review may be reprinted with prior permission and attribution.

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