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Keeper of the Shepherd

Keeper of the Shepherd
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Amidst peeling birch, sun dried and fragrant husks, a flooded riverbed, and a solemn, wet, echoing cave, Hannah Frances returns with a dense and daring new album, Keeper Of The Shepherd. At times raucous and toiling, and at times hypnotizing in its softness, Keeper of The Shepherd is a careful excavation through the ruins of Frances’ past as she carves out what’s been lost and buried, praising the possibility of a life more whole. This album is a rebirth in every sense of the word, showcasing Frances’ virtuosic songwriting, arrangement, and musicality, while displaying a deep and churning emotional vulnerability.

In what feels like a grand act of generosity, Frances reveals some of her hardest truths confronted over the last several years, giving name to the disquiet that is often kept hidden – grief spurred by the death of her father, internalized patriarchal harm from years of religious trauma, and a collection of hollow, shorn relationships. “How can I be deeper within myself?” is the question Frances seems to return to across Keeper Of The Shepherd.

On “Floodplain”, over dancing acoustic guitar and shimmering violins Frances bellows “How long have I kept you? / How long have I kept the light on? How long have I been gone?” On “Vacant Intimacies” a tumbling and explosive anthem that highlights Hunter Diamond on saxophone, Frances pleads for a release from the patterns born from past wounds, as she urgently repeats “grasping to the absence/haunted by the lack”. “I just feel like I gave myself away and erased myself in love,” she says. Death too returns to Frances across Keeper, haunting and all encompassing. “Death is a husk/holding the shape of my life,” she sings on “Husk”, with such steady assuredness, and no trace of fear.

There is no singular way Frances grips us with her guitar, or her storytelling. Her voice is colossal in its strength, piercing, warm, and always poised to embrace, even in its quietest expression. The momentum is constantly moving and shifting across Keeper Of The Shepherd. By the end, we’re left nearly breathless, shaken by all the ways in which she’s managed to hold tight to a feeling, and fling one song into the next.

It’s hard work Frances has done here, unearthing the muddled mess of loss and dizzying displacement. In the end, the gift she gives herself is a gift we too might find in our listening: permission to release yourself from the burden of your past, the clinging weight of what no longer becomes you, and feel yourself open up, wide and gaping, with a song hurdling out of your throat. Keeper of the Shepherd is both a prayer and a shield. We are carefully freed from the ruin of what’s hurt us, and kept safe, here, in a shining landscape more vast than we ever could have imagined.

— Written by Tasha Viets-Vanlear

Hannah Frances (b. 1997) is a vocalist, guitarist, composer, poet, and movement artist melding avant-folk, progressive rock, and jazz.

Found tracks

Hannah Frances - Bronwyn
Hannah Frances - Keeper of the Shepherd
Hannah Frances - Woolgathering
Hannah Frances - Floodplain
Hannah Frances - Husk
Hannah Frances - Vacant Intimacies
Hannah Frances - Haunted Landscape, Echoing Cave