Album Review: Haley Heynderickx – I Need To Start A Garden

The debut album by Mama Bird Recording artist Haley Heynderickx gives the Pacific Northwest (and the world) another healthy dose of the folk music it deserves. Her work springs up from the vein of local musicians like Y La Bamba, Barna Howard, and La Luz front woman Shana Cleveland.

The course of the 8-track album takes turns veering between lush, introspective “doom folk” musings and moments that press towards the verge – pushing guitar, lyrics, and Haley’s voice towards the edge of something that feels BIG. This push-pull reverberates throughout the album. Musically, you can feel the tension through the back-and-forth shift in acoustic and electric guitar, underlined by the sometimes restrained, sometimes ecstatic lines from talented bandmates on trombone, bass, percussion, and standup bass. Together they create a backdrop that uses its shifting sounds (sometimes sparse, sometimes like a parade through your living room) to keep listeners’ brains tuned into the story at the core of this album.

I Need To Start A Garden tackles the consequences of work in all its forms: paid and unpaid, physical and metaphysical, spiritual work, women’s work, hard work. And how refreshing – here in this pulsing, folky, sound capsule lies no allusions to jumping trains to avoid hardline sheriffs or busted carburetors in ’57 Chevys. Instead, Haley dwells on the souring contents of her fridge, collaboration in a lover’s inane fears, knock-off Coach purses as a sign of the divine, college (or lack thereof). This is the stuff of a life that many of us are living. And that is what makes Haley’s purpose in I Need To Start A Garden both intimate and powerful; the album uses everyday materials to navigate the cost of freedom and self-determination in one ordinary woman’s life. We follow the narrator as she shoulders most of the work in a relationship that seems to have gone off the tracks.

In The Bug Collector, a song who’s silliness is only matched by its gravity, she sings, “And there’s a praying mantis/ Prancing on your bathtub / And you swear it’s a priest / From a past life out to getcha” (a trombone leaps into play, imitating the twitching hands of perched mantis) which leads to the chorus: “And I digress/ ‘Cause I must make you the perfect evening/ I try my best/ To put the priest inside a jam jar.” Listening in, you’re left in a lurch. You want the heroine to succeed in her quest, but – is this quest worth it? No, Haley concludes by the close of the album. Freedom comes from doing work on one’s own terms.

What makes I Need To Start A Garden necessary as an album instead of, say, a novel or a collection of poems is that it was made for repeated use. Haley’s voice is a force of presence – the kind that brings goose bumps when experienced in a live setting – and in album form it is absolutely perfect for quietly riding the music into a meditative oblivion or yelling the lyrics at the top of your lungs from an open car window while at a red light.

Growing a garden is never a static task, but one you return to season after season. The work is never finished, but it does get easier. This album is a recommended ticket on that crooked path to self-determination. Haley is our real deal, dyed-in-the-wool fumbling woman (with razor-edge guitar skills), working her way through the costs of this world so we don’t have to do it alone, armed with a toolkit containing only the most necessary essentials: words, and a melody.

Lyndsay Dyk