Lucy Kaplansky — ‘Everyday Street’

Press play and close your eyes. Soothing, soulful guitars will guide you down memory lane while thoughtful lyrics drift you through parks and streets in New York—even the highlands of Scotland. Carefully crafted visions of childhood melting into adulthood will spike nostalgia and wonder. With seven originals and four covers, Everyday Street is a gust of spring air after a long, cold winter.

Musician, singer, and songwriter Lucy Kaplansky, who also happens to have a PhD in clinical psychology, is back after six years with the release of her new album. Everyday Street offers 11 raw and intimate tracks co-written with her husband, Richard Litvin. The album also features musicians such as Duke Levine, Shawn Colvin, and Richard Shindell. While Kaplansky’s beloved natural tone and slight twang are still prevalent on her new album, there’s certainly a fresh feel.

Inspired by her intimate and spontaneous live shows, the 2018 album sparks nostalgia, hope, sorrow, wonder, and wistful youth. The collection offers hints of bluegrass and plenty of folk.

Everyday Street is completely self-produced—there were no producers to guide her playing, no one to call for another take. Kaplansky isn’t even taking any help in marketing the album. Her freedom led to recording several songs in single takes, which contributes to the organic tones. However, if you hope to find it online or on your favorite streaming service, you’re out of luck. Due to the everchanging music industry, this special album can only be found through Kaplansky’s website or at her concerts.

The music industry is growing like a weed and with the internet allowing fans access to thousands of artists and millions of songs, it’s easy to feel the overwhelming demands of the industry, clamoring for cent after cent. So, now Kaplansky is about six months into her ambitious self-production plan and will continue to tour and promote Everyday Street through 2019.

Each song brings something different to the proverbial table; knitting themes of friendship, love, family, and loss, Kaplansky’s voice dances through these moments like fall leaves twirling in a soft October breeze. The opening song, “Old Friends,” showcases rich harmonies performed with longtime friend, Shawn Colvin. Finger-picked guitar chords open the track, lending a thoughtful tune, then lead to lyrics about fond memories of years of friendship—hence the title. It’s easy to hear the chemistry between the pair as their voices weave powerful harmonies, and even easier to fall into your own fond thoughts of friends, past and present.

Following “Old Friends,” Kaplansky strums into a bouncy song, “Sixth Avenue.” Played on a mandolin, she sends her listeners into a story about parents watching their child’s life fly by—a happy little tune floating above heavy, heartfelt verses: “Turn around, and you’ll be grown,” a theme that seems to wrap up this album in a neat package. Each verse acts as a camera, offering snapshots of this family experience of hope, love, and growing up.

Kaplansky then takes us to the Scottish Highlands, performing a cover of “Loch Lomond.” Leaving a love, finding new beginnings, and the “bonnie banks” are painted through her playing and soulful singing. Her voice climbs the highlands, then descends to the lowlands, rising and falling like the grand hills and mountains that grace Scotland—and life. Full of sorrow and tribulation, beauty and love, mystery and grace, Kaplansky’s vocals and playing capture the vast emotions life brings, displaying a deep contrast from the opening two songs.

Next, “Janie’s Waltz” dances on. The bright, playful tune showcases a curious child, seeing the world and experiencing the outside world for the first time—and a new mother learning to see it all over again through her baby’s eyes. The uplifting beat and ascending notes tumble around like a young child in a field. Finger-picked notes tickle ears like grass on the child’s feet and legs. It’s new and refreshing.

The rest of the album is full of fragments and ghosts of memories and emotions. Songs such as her cover of “Hallelujah” help the mood ebb and flow, contrasting with Bruce Springsteen’s “Thunder Road,” which had been inspired by one of her shows in New Jersey. Kaplansky recently shared the story with a Massachusetts audience: while playing in New Jersey, she had mentioned Springsteen, which prompted a song request. She agreed, choosing “Thunder Road” with the hopes that her audience could help her with the lyrics. And they did.

The final song on the album is a throwback from her first album, released in 1994: The Tide. Revamped with a new sound, “The Tide” ties up the record with a solemn, folky ribbon. The original recording from 1994 produced an angelic, sweet voice singing lyrics about demons, devils, and drinks. But 25 years later, Kaplansky’s seasoned playing and resonant vocals add some more weight to the somber song.

Everyday Street is like a photo album, sharing snaps of all of the beautiful moments in life—happy and heartbreaking. While The Tide pulled in some elements of blues and a little bit of funk, and her 2012 record, Reunion, drew in some pop and bluesy hints, her new release maintains a strong bluegrass and folk feel. But each song brings something different—a new emotion, a new memory, a new scene or story. Her use of various acoustic instruments and integration of eclectic covers work in harmony to give her listeners that same feeling they get during her live shows.

From the streets of New York to the parks in springtime, to birthday parties in the backyard to the Scottish Highlands, Everyday Street offers so much more than a short, musical escape. So, close your eyes, press play, and wander.