The songs on Melaena Cadiz‘s new LP Deep Below Heaven, out May 20, are warm and welcoming, founded on gentle acoustic guitars, light percussion and her strong alto. She’s from Michigan and now based in Brooklyn, but her music often screams of the southwest, like in the reflective track “Needles River,” where Cadiz paints a picture of a river running through the desert, with the “tallest sky [she's] ever seen” and heaven extending in all directions. The sound fits the setting, too: a steady banjo pattern, suspended cymbals and what might be a lap-steel guitar, topped with Cadiz’s chanting and belting.
“I’m not from the southwest but I love a lot of music that has that kind of sound,” she says, “And maybe being from the Midwest [contributes to it], with the open plains and cornfields.” Cadiz also had visuals to help her; while she was in Brooklyn writing, her husband Mikael Kennedy, a photographer, was traveling around the country. As she releases her record, he’s releasing a photo book with the same title, with collaborative events planned for New York, Nashville and the West Coast this spring and summer. “He was [sending me] all these images from the southwest, and I would send him fragments of songs I was working on, and it was this long-distance sharing of ideas,” Cadiz says.
The phrase “deep below heaven” and the line about the tallest sky come from a Sam Shepard quote, and literature often inspires her music. “I wrote ‘Needles River’ after reading a bunch of Steinbeck, so even though I hadn’t really been to a lot of those places it was a world that comes [to life],” she says.
Elsewhere on Deep Below Heaven you’ll find driving Americana (“Keep It”), unhurried country (“Swinging Low”) and piano-led cabaret (“Holy Night”) — stream the record in its entirety below.