Album Review – Sierra Ferrell’s “Trail of Flowers”

If you follow certain primrose paths deep into the enchanted forest, or discover a portal to the past through an antique wardrobe in a house overgrown with vines, or forage on certain mushrooms growing out from the trunks of giant trees, you might stumble upon the realm of Sierra Ferrell.

It’s a world of gingerbread cottages with round doors, fairy tale meadows of singing birds and talking flowers, and creatures of mirth that speak in limericks. It’s beautiful place for sure, yet beguiling and potentially dangerous, leading some who don’t heed the wisdom and warning of the stories told there to their ultimate doom.

Similar to Colter Wall, Sierra Ferrell has taken entirely outmoded and archaic music, and through her weaving of magic, made it more wildly popular and appealing than anyone would ever have imagined it could be in the modern era. It’s through this work that Ferrell was named the Saving Country Music Artist of the Year in 2023. Another reason is the other-worldly magic she sows on the stage, and often simply with an acoustic guitar and light accompaniment.

Sierra Ferrell’s music affords the audience the ability to suspend disbelief, and be ferried to somewhere faraway from the cold slab of modern existence. Trail of Flowers has many of these dreamy, acoustic moments, but it’s also an opportunity for Sierra Ferrell to explore other audio textures and influences she’s not able to actualize on the road. It also gives her the ability to express herself in ways that are just as important for unburdening her soul as they are to entertaining the audience.

To call Sierra Ferrell a singer/songwriter almost seems like a reduction of her powers. Her music and presentation is much more imaginative and indefinable than that. But the opening song of the new album called “American Dreaming” explores Sierra’s ability to craft a compelling song from her own personal experiences as opposed to the more ethereal inspirations she normally pulls from.

As a hard touring musician, “American Dreaming” speaks to some of the more difficult moments she’s experienced now that she’s been set on the path to stardom. Like so many of us, sometimes chasing a dream gets in the way of more fundamentally important things like friendships, love, and well-being, necessitating a pause.

Trail of Flowers also includes a couple of tracks that are more country and honky tonk in nature. “Why Haven’t You Love Me Yet” is a song you could imagine hearing bark out the front door whenever anyone exits the American Legion Post 82 in Nashville. Similarly, “Dollar Bill Bar” has an almost delightfully simple story to it about a type of bar we’ve all been to at one point, even if at the heart of the song is a cautionary tale of impending heartbreak.

Where Sierra really shows off her ability to write a song is “Wish You Well.” Perhaps the hidden gem of Trail of Flowers, it conveys the truth that the easiest path to overcoming heartbreak is not revenge, avoidance, distraction, or even time, but forgiveness. It’s the poetic and compelling ways Ferrell conveys this fact that makes you actually listen and heed this adage as opposed to just hear it.

However, like the album title and imagery insinuates, an interplay of nature and humanity is fundamental to Trail of Flowers. Well before the release of the album, the fiddle reel “Fox Hunt” had already become a fundamental part of the Sierra Ferrell presentation. “Rosemary” is a playful tale that turns into a murder ballad, and one that long-time Ferrell fans will already be familiar with.

Though Sierra explores a host of realms on this album, it’s still fundamentally the old-time influence that prevails. Fiddlin’ Arthur Smith’s song “Chittlin’ Cookin’ Time in Cheatham County” comes alive anew from the lungs of Sierra Ferrell. “I Can Drive You Crazy” comes across as a little tedious at first, but the old-time instrumentation hanging right on the melody, and Sierra’s always-enthralling “oohs!” ultimately endear the composition to your heart.

The truth is that Sierra Ferrell’s live presentation sets such high expectations, they will never be met by the restrictions of studio recordings. The whimsy and improvisation at the heart of her approach to music is just impossible to capture in the recorded context. Similar to Billy Strings, it’s something that must be experienced live to full appreciate. That’s not a criticism of Trail of Flowers. That’s the breathtaking reality of when you behold Sierra Ferrell in the flesh.

But as a home companion and music you can take with you to escape mundanity, Sierra Ferrell’s Trail of Flowers is more than capable, and a hell of a lot more accessible than enchanted forest meadows, Hansel and Gretel cottages, and psychedelics. It’s nonetheless a dose of the surreal that helps get you through a reality than seems more unreal by the day.


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