Baltimore-based singer/songwriter Letitia Van Sant soared on the strength of her debut album, "Gut it to the Studs," winning praise from the pundits, many of whom singled her out as an artist to watch that's more than worthy of attention. Time will tell whether or not those pronouncements win out, but it's apparent even at the outset of "Circadian," her moving sophomore set, that VanSant is an emotive artist with a particularly plaintive point of view. When she coos "I am a criminal, my crime is neglect/There are no excuses for such disrespect" on the song "Spilt Milk," she goes far beyond mere repentance and into a darker dimension entirely.
That mournful mood is, in fact, indicative of the sadness and sobriety instilled in the album overall. Songs such as "You Can't Put My Fire Out," "Something Real" and the decidedly downcast "Most of Our Dreams Don't Come True" are delivered from a purposeful point of view, a sound infused with sorrow, sadness and a decided infusion of regret and remorse. It's uncertain what it is exactly that inspires her anguished attitude, but it's clear that she's intent on excising her emotions. The only songs that show any uptick in her approach are the title track, the concluding anthem "Rising Tide" and the rather ironically-dubbed "The Hustle," but even those three songs register only the slightest sense of urgency.
As a result, it becomes all the more imperative to lean in and listen, and doing so allows for a fuller appreciation of VanSant's determination and delivery. Clearly she's intent on emphasizing a point, even though it sometimes seems she's simply lamenting the difficulties of dealing with today's world. Yet, despite that tangle of emotions, "Circadian" is a genuinely affecting effort, one that should further solidify her standing in today's Americana environs. Hopefully next time, she'll have some happier circumstances to sing about.
Lee Zimmerman is a freelance writer and author based in Maryville, Tennessee. He also expounds on music on his web site, Stories Beyond the Music - Americana Music Reviews, Interviews & Articles. His book, Americana Music - Voices, Visionaries and Pioneers of an Honest Sound, is available from Texas A&M University Publishing.