“Alchemized” Nancy Just
By Steve Graham
Nancy Just occasionally posts a meme on her Facebook page that reads “Music is my painkiller.”
She must be serious, and she has to need a powerful dose. The Loveland psychotherapist and folk-pop singer dedicated her second album, “Alchemized” to her two sons and their father, who died unexpectedly during the recording of the album. Four months later, her brother also died of a drug overdose.
She wastes no time processing the pain of her loss through her musical medication.
“In the field where we used to sing and sway, you’d strum your guitar under the stars, by that well where we’d wish our fears away, until that day you were called away,” sings Just on “The Well,” the opening track on her second album.
She claims the songwriting is split between personal introspection and fictional tales. Like most great songs, it’s hard to parse the difference, and each song has touching and potentially personal details and universal touchstones that can reach any listener.
Despite all the heartache, her lilting and airy voice always carries some uplift and falls somewhere between Nanci Griffith and Iris DeMent. And the instrumentation is rich and warm, thanks largely to her award-winning producer and multi-instrumentalist, Justin Roth.
Standout tracks include “Angel of My Dark Night,” a great and sparse Lucinda Williams-style ballad about performers falling in love — or maybe just lust. She also breaks out some twang in the middle of the album for “Catch and Release,” and gets anthemic on the appropriately titled “Freedom.”
We’re glad Just has found her music painkiller and equally glad she shared the cure, and her talent, with us.