The opening line of Sodra’s Spider Mother is a statement that introduces a central theme of the record. “It’s happening, you don’t have to understand it” she sings in a voice both plaintive and hopeful. It is also a kind of heuristic for the songwriter: while understanding may not be necessary, in these ten songs she attempts to understand a great many things. This is an honest and probing record that confronts depression, loss, and the intractable mysteries of the heart.

This is no sad affair. Even the darkest moments are buoyed by the lush production of Dave Lawson, and the most shimmering moments here often come as a collision between his pop-infused sonic dreamscapes and her candid lines. A case in point is “The Moon and the Morning,” which begins with an isolated, heavily distorted, and bouncy bass groove that leads into a rollicking piano line played by Jarrod Champion that would fit easily on a Van Morrison record. In a melody that can only be described as joyful, Sodra sings about the insecurities that always come with love, that indeed might be the proof of love. Like Dickenson, she tells the truth, but tells it slant: “So in my fierce denial, I held on even tighter…And I feel like you should help, but neither one is well.” Reading these lines on a page cannot convey the effect of hearing them float over the driving rhythm of Lawson’s bass and Ben Luckett’s drums and the sweet backing ooo-wah-ooos as the singer worries about “what is in between the moon and the morning.” 

There is much to admire on this record full of midnights and mornings. The most unabashedly sweet song (forgive the pun) is “Cherries and Cream.” The mode here is reverie; it is a song about the innocence and wonder of creation (a pile of handmade zines and busking on South Street in Philly), and about the hope and hazards of first love. “Let the Tears Roll By” is an Opry-worthy slow country waltz that highlights Pete Ballard’s deft pedal steel work, while “Would You Lay With Me in a Field of Stones” is a pastoral invitation that reminds me of Townes Van Zandt’s more tender lyrical moments. “The earth is my favorite thing to touch,” she sings, “when it feels like it’s crumbling away.”

The stand-out track here is “No One Came Through But You.” The song is a rocker musically and lyrically a clinic on dramatic narrative. It centers on a mental health crisis and begins “I layed in a room unable to move. The water was dingy so the flowers were doomed.” The narrator is trapped inside herself “like a marsh cut off from the ocean,” and the first two verses lead into a chorus that begs it all to “stop, stop, stop.” After an inspired guitar solo by James Anthony, the third verse turns outward and shows the hope that lies in connection. The chorus this time changes to “But honey you came through, no one came through but you” in the kind of triumphant moment that only comes after real isolation and pain. And Sodra’s voice comes through too, like pealing bells above city streets after a storm.

This is Sodra’s fourth full-length record and a high-water mark in her oeuvre. Listening, one gets the sense of an artist in full control of her voice working with a band and a producer that understands and expands her vision. The record rewards repeated listens, and I hope it finds the wider audience it is certainly worthy of. 

Spider Mother is available for purchase through Bandcamp:

Sodra Jane is a singer-songwriter from Oak Park, Michigan. She has performed extensively throughout the Metro-Detroit area, including at the Detroit Institute of Arts Rivera Court. Spider Mother is her fourth record.

Ryan Dillaha is a songwriter from the Detroit area. His latest record Closer to Better was released in 2019. He teaches Creative Writing and Composition at Oakland Community College.