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A Magazine for Sheffield

Margo Cilker Pohorylle

Oregon's Margo Cilker delivers a debut of assured Americana that marries love, geography and loss to impressive effect.

Released: 5 November 2021

This reviewer came somewhat late to the talents of Portland's Margo Cilker. With Pohorylle – both a backpack company and a photojournalist who died in the Spanish civil war – Cilker paints pictures of love, loss and emotional intensity in perfect harmony with the expansive geography of her Oregon homeland.

Having lived in the Basque country for two years, Cilker's natural curiosity for tight-knit community and her fearlessness in exploring the darker underbelly of humanity provides the perfect foundation for this nine-song set. You can almost taste the acidic tang of incredulity in the sardonic "Kevin Johnson', a clever song cypher demonstrating that you only need to peel a paper-thin layer away from the "good ol’ southern country man" to find the hypocrisy beneath.

Physical abuse in relationships isn't a topic most singer-songwriters would address, but Cilker's subtle yet raw ‘Broken Arm In Oregon’ captures the sorrow, pain and desperation of abuse with a searingly raw lyric: “A young man closed his hand across her mouth / Now every room she sleeps in / She's got to map out her escape plan." In contrast, ‘Barbed Wire (Belly Crawl)’ is a joyous slice of community spirit: "The band gets an encore / the farmer a stiff pour / and we're all getting closer this time.”

"I am a woman split between places" sings Cilker on album closer ‘Wine In The World’, a song that exposes a personal insight into the symbiosis between her selfhood and her profession – evidence of her acute sense of introspection and self-awareness. Pohorylle is storytelling at its best, expertly painted both lyrically and sonically with an insight, sensitivity and widescreen rawness that challenges yet uplifts at every twist and turn.