- Justin LaPoint, Miss Mountain Sky
"It's funny how everything's a circle, coming back again," Justin LaPoint sings on "Man on Fire," the second track on Miss Mountain Sky. He continues, "So we laugh at ourselves when we pass ourselves coming 'round the bend."
The Burlington singer-songwriter's latest EP focuses on things coming full circle, both thematically and musically. Over five tracks of Americana and folk, LaPoint flexes his songwriting prowess, further establishing himself as one of Vermont's most promising talents.
LaPoint first hit the scene with his 2017 debut, Bear Country, a record full of potential that bore all the hallmarks — good and bad — of a new artist. There was no doubting LaPoint's ability to write a tune, and the album's production was stellar. But there were moments when it was clear that he couldn't yet deliver a finished product.
Miss Mountain Sky might just be the realization of all that promise. LaPoint has reined in his sound a bit, doing away with drums or any leanings into rock or country — this is a pure roots record.
He only brought along two friends this time: Shay Gestal on violin, piano and harmony vocals; and the EP's producer, Colin McCaffrey, who provides a host of sounds and instruments. The stripped-down tone enhances LaPoint's songs, imbuing them with a sense of the traditional — that shared narrative of existence that folk music can so accurately depict.
The EP's title track shines the brightest, opening with a gorgeous swell of harmony vocals and McCaffrey's cascading mandolin. The three musicians sing together with such ease and chemistry that their harmonies paint the record in bright colors, offsetting the wood and earth tones of the music.
"Miss Mountain Sky, Mountain Sky, tell me why do I have to try so hard to get by / I've been eking out, seeking out, scraping as I go / Tell me, how did I hit this all-time low?" LaPoint wonders. The song perfectly captures the age-old plight of the working man and woman, of spending all your days toiling to survive and wondering about the point of it all.
Initially released last year as a single, "My Oh My" is a gentle ballad in which Gestal pulls double duty: She plays piano on the intro before laying down a violin track that mingles with McCaffrey's cello. LaPoint's voice soars as he grapples with the dissolution of a relationship and asks, essentially, What's the fucking point? "If this means nothing, nothing at all / Gonna sing it all night, drown in alcohol," he declares with righteous misanthropy.
The record closes with its two most traditional folk-sounding songs. "Notes From the Morning" finds LaPoint missing a lost love. The shuffling arrangement and Appalachian-tinged strings segue nicely into "Shadow," which almost forms a counterpoint to the song before. In "Notes From the Morning," LaPoint isn't able to shake the memory of what he lost; in "Shadow," he refutes those dark thoughts. The two form an engaging coda for the EP.
Miss Mountain Sky is available on Spotify.