For Audra Kubat, life brings a series of dualities that challenge and change the soul.
Those dualities inspire her to create magical sonic epiphanies that instantly resonate with listeners on “The Sliver & the Salve,” a spectacular 10-track odyssey that drops Friday and looks inward and outward at the self, society and the cosmos.
“I feel like this album for me was recognizing that there were these dualities and sort of contradictions, these internal and external things going on. I wanted then to connect that also with the way we treat each other, treat ourselves and treat the earth,” said Kubat, a Detroit indie folk singer-songwriter.
“Those three ideas, the way we treat ourselves, the way we treat each other and the way we treat the land are what really define us. Our impact is limited, expounded or accentuated by our ability to be fully ourselves, to be gracious to others and to take care of the land.”
Throughout “The Sliver & the Salve,” Kubat brilliantly addresses relatable themes of inner strength, personal freedom and growth, tumultuous relationships, emotional upheavals and environmental stewardship.
Selections from ‘The Sliver & the Salve’
As a follow-up to 2016’s acoustically-minded “Mended Vessel,” Kubat’s latest album via Whistle Pig Records showcases a carefully crafted batch of songs that evoke deep reflections against a backdrop of elegant instrumentation.
Each song highlights the challenges of everyday life experiences and the difficult choices people make to progress. The gorgeous opening track, “Some Comfort,” depicts the courageous mindset of a woman who escapes an abusive relationship and ponders a new life ahead.
Soft acoustic guitars chronicle the struggles of the past while quiet background synths and lush harmonies foreshadow the promise of the future – “She was far from home/And where are you now?/Are you at the wheel?/What you need now is a place that you can find some comfort.”
“It’s a made-up story about a woman driving down the road, listening to the radio and pulling off in a diner to refuel,” Kubat said. “It’s a metaphor of leaving something that’s hard to leave and not looking back and being able to connect with others who are doing that.”
As a heartfelt track, “Ann Maria” shares a somber tale about a musician seeking fame and fortune over a lifetime of love. A haunting classical guitar solo from Sean Blackman sets the scene for an ill-fated romance – “But every night she’d come and whisper in his ear/While he lied awake trying not to hear/He couldn’t help but to shed a tear/Thinking about the girl he left behind.”
Kubat revisits another disintegrating relationship on “Good Old Days,” which opens with a lo-fi acoustic guitar and vibrant mandolin as a lap steel weeps in the background – “Who am I now that you know me/Do you recognize my face/Lately I don’t feel much like talking about it/I’ve got nothing to say.”
“I wanted to write a song that just sounded good, like it was just well-written and real traditional sounding, sort of like a ‘Fools Rush In’ where all the words are great,” she said. “It’s just simple though, but then it hits you in the gut at one point.”
To broaden her sonic tales, Kubat enlisted producer Bucky Hunt and an all-star cast of collaborators, including Emily Rose, Tamara Finlay, Chuck Bartels, Escaping Pavement’s Emily Burns and Aaron Markovitz, and My Brightest Diamond’s Shara Nova, to include a vocally prominent and expansive digital sound on “The Sliver & the Salve.”
“I wanted to bring in some shades of digital work into these acoustic songs. I played synth on a bunch of stuff. I was nervous at first to put synthetic sounds on my album, and I began to work with Shara Nova, and she really encouraged me,” Kubat said. “She added harmonies, and she did some synth and bass. It was just a great way to take the album and put a little spike into it.”
Kubat also put a musical spike into “Oh Mother,” an acoustic environmental ode to appreciating and preserving the earth. The track includes a mesmerizing choir of women artists adding harmonies in the background. Nova wrote the soaring parts for the female-oriented choir, which features Rose, Finlay, Annie Bacon, Anne Erlewine, Emilie Rivard and others.
“I started to look around and think, ‘Well, who would I have come and support this record?’ I have like 10 to 15 different women I could think of that I’d like to invite,” Kubat said. “I sent out a big list, and not everybody was able to do it, but we got about nine women singing on the recording.”
Friday’s Album Release Show
Kubat will recreate that same choral experience Friday during her album release show at the Detroit Institute of Arts. An impressive roster of special guests will perform with Kubat in the art museum’s Rivera Court and absorb the colorful beauty of the iconic Detroit Industry Murals.
During her release show, Kubat will perform two sets and spotlight selections from her previous albums as well as tracks from “The Sliver & the Salve.”
“We’ll be doing the full album live, but it will not be what the album sounds like. I think that’s kind of cool about what I do,” she said. “I don’t think the album needs to sound like what I do solo. My live performance is a very intimate thing.”
With the release of “The Sliver & the Salve,” Kubat will consider sync licensing opportunities for film and TV. She also will book spring and summer tour dates throughout Michigan along with weekend jaunts in the Midwest.
“I think I’m going to start spoking out so I can still work during the week,” Kubat said. “I’ll be going south to places like Akron, going to Pennsylvania, going to Indiana and going to Illinois and Chicago. I want to create these different spoke-outs from Detroit going to Windsor and going to Canada.”
7 p.m. to 10 p.m. | Friday
5200 Woodward Ave. in Detroit
Free museum admission for residents of Wayne, Oakland and Macomb counties