Just Like Leaving finds 20-year-old Calgary native Bella White looking over her shoulder at the music of her great-grandparents’ generation.
But White isn’t simply influenced by it; she drags it smack into the 2020s and sacrifices zero authenticity in the process. Just Like Leaving is Appalachian string music infused with heartbreak, introspection and self-destructive behavior over a backdrop of mandolin, fiddle and bass.
“Then I start using and I’m numb again,” White sings on “Gutted,” the first of nine tracks on her 30-minute debut LP.
These are balladic bluegrass numbers infused with more melancholy than any 20-year-old should know so intuitively. And there’s not a dog in the lot as White sings with hints of a restrained Natalie Maines and a younger Sarah Jarosz in her voice, which is swathed in harmonies from mandolinist Reed Stutz, fiddler Julian Pinelli and bassist Robert Alan Mackie.
White wrote all the numbers and possesses a lyrical touch that allows the Canadian-born musician to write confidently of the American south (“Do You Think about Me at All”), to have an internal debate over nature vs. nurture (“The Hand of Your Raising”) and to place herself behind the eyes of another as she does on “Now She Knows What it Feels Like,” which closes the album with a focus on her folksy acoustic-guitar playing.
“And now she knows what it feels like to fall out of love with you,” White sings, ensuring listeners fall for her music.