It’s a fitting title that alternative folk artist Wyatt Monroe chose for his reflective debut full-length album: Uproot. A term synonymous with the 2020 experience.
Monroe signed to Roxhill Records in 2019, and wasted no time creating his debut EP for the label, Voyage, recorded and produced by Joe Reineke. The 6-song project featured acoustic, bluesy chord progressions and Monroe’s unique, Bob Dylan-esque vocal tone. Sonically, each of the songs, such as “Ready to Rest” and “10 Million Steps,” has a nostalgic, small-town bar sound to them that sets a tone for wanting to have drinks with close friends at a picnic table under the stars.
However, it was during the summer of 2020 that Monroe began working with Cchype Crosby on Uproot, recording and producing it in Crosby’s home studio due to Covid-19 restrictions. This might seem like a hindrance, but the raw and imperfect performances, which match well with the alternative folk genre, end up adding to the authenticity of the entire LP. This natural sound also acts as a subtle reminder of the unprecedented circumstances in which the album was recorded, turning it into a sort of period piece.
The first track released was a single titled, “Repent,” though on the album, it’s the opening track with a new name: “You Can’t Spell Represent Without Repent.” Its indie-folk sound stems from a jam-band style guitar and percussion groove with intimate vocals joined by harmonies similar to those of Simon and Garfunkel. It makes for a great sing-along around a campfire; however, it is hard to say that it accurately represents the full album, since Monroe touches on multiple genres throughout.
Uproot was an opportunity for Monroe to showcase how he can translate his skills into a wide range of styles, a sign of maturity from the preceding EP. The title track displays his familiar bluesy sound, but each subsequent song is something different. “Stir Crazy” ventures into latin, mixed meter territory, which is followed by “Glum Lord,” a dancey, funky style with a switch to a more lush, slow section in the last third of the song.
The jazzy progressions and distant trumpet in “Slave of a Richer Man,” introduced by the instrumental interlude “Sleeping Alone,” is reminiscent of a Bond song, classy yet mysterious. The final track, “Divide and Conquer,” returns to the familiar indie-folk style, with poetic and reflective lyrics that help it feel like a successful closer.
The variety embedded within this debut album makes listening from the top down an effortless process, one that by the end reveals Monroe’s promising range as an emerging artist.
Wyatt Monroe may have had to adjust to a new method of creating during 2020, but he was able to use that change to fuel his creativity and execute a satisfying debut.