Linden Thoburn beautifully shines a light on the road less traveled.
The Brighton, Michigan country-folk singer-songwriter and guitarist shares hopeful tales of navigating life’s seasonal changes on her adventurous new album, When the Sun Comes Shining Through.
“There’s a lot of movement, and there’s a lot of leaving one state and going into another state. I write from listening to life and listening to myself, and that’s just what was there,” Thoburn said.
“It’s somebody who’s able to look back and be here, yet still be able to bring some perspective, hopefulness and realism, too. The journey continues, and if you’re really going to live this life and be here, you have to be awake to the journey.”
On When the Sun Comes Shining Through, Thoburn deeply embraces a pictorial journey filled with lonesome AM radio, cherry red vans, summer berries, Mississippi tributaries, bright wings and Avalon forests. Each radiant track leaves a lasting imprint on the heart and soul of bygone eras and unread chapters.
“A lot of 2022 has been getting this album ready to launch … and I keep thinking COVID is over, and the sun comes shining through, and then COVID keeps coming back,” she said with a laugh. “This album is like leaving COVID, and it’s like going from winter and heading into spring.”
Rays of Hope
Fittingly, the springtime feel of When the Sun Comes Shining Through starts with “Long Way Home,” a fearless anthem of renewal and anticipation. An uplifting symphony of contemplative acoustic guitar, soaring bass, soft drums, serene cello and steady piano guide Thoburn toward a promising new destination.
She sings, “Give me the wheel and two headlights/And I will find my way in the darkest night/Tonight this road feels like a long lost friend/It’s a long way home again.”
“This is a more autobiographical one because I drive to feel better. I grew up out west, and I had to drive long distances. If I’m feeling down, then just getting in the car and going helps me sort things out,” said who hails from West Texas.
“This song also focuses on the reflections of what you’re leaving and where you’re going, the things you don’t know and the things you do know, and the idea of putting all of those together.”
After finding the “Long Way Home,” Thoburn’s life-changing odyssey continues in the vibrant “Hippie Van” as buoyant acoustic guitar, easygoing bass, delightful organ, sunny electric guitar and cozy percussion provide freedom and gratitude.
She sings, “She was shaped like a loaf of bread/Windows all around, she was cherry red/With a place for a tire out in front of her nose/We got her on a summer day/I fell in love with her right away/Me and my momma named her the Ramblin’ Rose.”
“We had my mother’s station wagon, which was so uncool. But I loved hippie vans, and we did amazing road trips. We would just drive, and my dad would say, ‘Well, let’s just stop here and have a picnic in this state park.’
“Sometimes we would end up driving all night because my dad would be like, ‘Let’s just see if there’s a hotel or motel at this stop,’ and I can still see him with a map. It would be so spontaneous … and we would go out to California, pull a boat and go down to the Gulf of California to go deep-sea fishing.”
Next, Thoburn trades the warm ocean shores of California for damp, wintry Midwestern skies on “Opening.” Gray clouds of wistful acoustic guitar, lonely bass, melancholic cello and reflective percussion surround Thoburn as she awaits the dawn of spring.
She sings, “I am thankful for the gift of time/So I can stop – and feel the love that’s mine/In the coming of spring/Inside of every living thing/There is an opening.”
“That one was written during the first winter of COVID, and it was February. We had been hit hard here, and it was really cold and very dark. We were staying home, and we couldn’t see anybody,” Thoburn said.
“I wrote it on that first day where I could feel spring coming in the air. It was freezing, but there was some change in the light. It’s one of my favorite songs on the album.”
Once the “Opening” of spring arrives, Thoburn emits rays of hope on the warm, optimistic title track. A Beatles-like flash of calm acoustic guitar, luminous bass, shimmery electric guitar, forthright piano, courageous cello and thumping drums bring relief and reassurance.
She sings, “Put on your bright wings/Tune up your heartstrings/Go on see what life brings/Maybe something shiny and new.”
“When I wrote that song, I thought, ‘That’s not like me,’ but I was really happy with it. I could hear the big orchestration, and I could hear in my mind the vocals and the harmonies,” Thoburn said.
“I also wanted it to sound like a Beatles song, and of course, Dave Roof, is the perfect person to produce something with a Beatley vibe to it. I was so excited to get to that song, and we did it later in the album.”
Here Comes the Sun
Thoburn’s When the Sun Comes Shining Through inspiration struck nearly two years ago. At the time, she had just released Scarecrow at the start of the pandemic, but wanted to continue pursuing her creative streak.
“This album felt risky to me,” Thoburn said. “When Dave (Roof), Mike (Gentry) and I were doing this album, we were like, ‘Scarecrow had a theme and pastoral quality to it.’ With this one, I was like, ‘I’m just going to let this one be all over the place because that’s what COVID feels like.’”
For her latest album, Thoburn spent 18 months recording the 13 tracks with co-producer Roof at Grand Blanc’s Rooftop Recording. They also collaborated virtually with co-producer Gentry during their studio sessions.
“Those two are amazing. We always sit down the first day, and we go song by song. They’ll say, ‘What’s your idea? What do you want to hear? What do you want on this album? What do you want it to feel like? What are you conveying here?’” she said.
“And then they have ideas, like the hurdy-gurdy on ‘Robin Hood and the Devil’s Tail’ was Mike (Gentry’s) idea. It evokes Robin Hood, and I couldn’t believe it.”
“He’s from England … I couldn’t find a hurdy-gurdy player here, so I went to Facebook and looked at the hurdy-gurdy sites. There was a guy there who said, ‘I teach hurdy-gurdy lessons – beginning, middle and advanced – and I do studio work,’” she said.
“I instant-messaged him and said, ‘I’m looking for a hurdy-gurdy player for my album. Would you be interested?’ He wrote right back, and I put him together with Dave (Roof). We sent him the files, we told him what we wanted, and he sent back the perfect hurdy-gurdy part.”
Thoburn also included a “perfect” cast of collaborators for When the Sun Comes Shining Through. Cheryl Beauchamp (piano), Sara Gibson (cello), Emily Slomovits (violin), Jim Bizer (12-string electric guitar, electric baritone guitar), Suzanne Sherwin (harmony vocal), Milan Seth (harmony vocal), the late Donn Deniston (percussion), Roof (acoustic guitar, bass, organ, electric 12-string guitar, harmony vocal) and Gentry (harmony vocal) solidified the album’s glistening Americana-centric sound.
“I feel like, ‘Pinch me, pinch me … I get to live in this place with these amazing musicians all around who are the nicest people,’” Thoburn said. “And I get to be part of it, and I feel so lucky.”
In fact, several of Thoburn’s collaborators will join her on stage tonight at The Ark in Ann Arbor to celebrate the album’s release.
Beauchamp, Gibson, Gentry, Bizer, Sherwin and Roof will perform with Thoburn as well as Rod Capps (violin), Stuart Tucker (drums) and Spencer Hanson (bass). Meanwhile, Chelsea singer-songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Annie Capps will open the show.
“We’ll play through the entire album and hope that people have that much stamina to sit through it,” said Thoburn, whose album runs over 50 minutes in length.
After tonight’s show, Thoburn will perform Sept. 10 at the Wheatland Music Festival in Remus. She’ll also continue performing and writing new material.
“My goal is to keep music fun and keep myself in a position where I can write because I want to keep writing. That’s what I really love, and I want to explore and not lose my balance,” Thoburn said.
“I have to make room for that because if I fill my life with too much other stuff, then there isn’t enough emotional or psychic space.”
Tuesday, Aug. 9 | 8 p.m.
The Ark, 316 S. Main St. in Ann Arbor
Tickets: $20 general admission/$27 reserved