Sound Impression: Lullaby for a Stranger by Jamie Stillway

Portland-based guitarist Jamie Stillway‘s new album was conceived in a 196 square foot cabin with on an island in the Puget Sound where she moved in the autumn of 2019. Lullaby for a Stranger was inspired by the solitary journey taken 70 years ago by a pregnant woman driving alone from Minnesota to Oregon to deliver her unborn daughter and give her up for adoption. That baby grew up to give birth to a daughter of her own 30 years later whom she left at 6 months old. The women, as it turns out, were Jamie’s mother and grandmother. So, with guitar in hand, Stillway pens a poignantly titled “letter in sound” to these strangers, as it were, bound together in an open circle of generational trauma.

These are songs of grief, loss, contemplation, and ultimately, beauty. They speak not only to the two women who became her strangers, but also to others who have made the decision to part with a child, and those left behind to grieve in silence.

Fluff and Gravy Records

Demonstrating the same pristine guitar work and gift for melodic warmth shown on earlier works like City Static (2018), Stillway unwinds these strands of grief and loss with a sympathetic tenderness that quietly captivates while deftly using textural elements to frame the narrative. There is not a single note of anger or bitterness in the music she has created – just empathetic reflection and a gentle acceptance of grief that makes way for healing. One does not need to know the backstory of this album to savor its affecting beauty, but boy, does it make it hard to get to the end without the eyes watering up once you do.

Links: Bandcamp (LP/digital) | Jamie Stillway

Lullaby for a Stranger is available now from Fluff and Gravy Records digitally and in two vinyl variations – classic black and a limited-edition “figured maple” color (100 copies) featuring artwork by Kasana Holden. For the album, Stillway exclusively used a custom archtop guitar built by Maegen Wells.

Note: At time of publishing, a few copies of a highly limited number of exclusive test pressings were also available.

photo by Rick Dahms