Portland singer-songwriter Shanna Underwood’s main weapon is her big, brassy, exceptionally expressive voice. She can veer from an intimate whisper to a bluesy drawl to a country holler to an outright wail, all within the space of one verse in a song. Her new album, “Wandering,” is a showcase for those gorgeous pipes — as well as for the crack team of musicians she’s assembled, dubbed Wanderlost, which combines Portland mainstays like guitarist Pete Witham and members of his band, the Cozmik Zombies, drummer Chris Wilkes and cellist Devon Colella, who provides beautiful grit to album opener “Dry Water.” Most of “Wandering” chugs along in a kind of of accessible country-fied bluegrass twang, produced with an airy, warm touch by Todd Hutchinson of Acadia Recording in Portland. It’s also appropriately titled, considering Underwood spent the better part of a decade traveling around the world — “Wandering” was written all over the world, from Portland to Incheon, South Korea to Nashville, Tenn. It’s an expertly played, enjoyable diary of a life spent traveling and singing.
Rural Maine farm life has been the inspiration for a number of musicians over the years, from bigger names like David Mallett to lesser-known contemporary songwriters like Bennett Konesni or Garrett Soucy. Add Glenn Dalrymple to that list — recording as Dalriver, he’s released an instrumental album, “Appleton Cabin,” that exemplifies the sensation of ambling among the fields, woods and waters of Maine. A guitarist and composer, Dalrymple spent a year living in a remote cabin on Appleton Ridge in Knox County, learning how to make goat cheese at Appleton Creamery and then, later, recovering from a broken ankle. In that time, he wrote “Appleton Cabin,” a suite of sorts, combining his understated acoustic and electric guitar playing, wordless vocals and found, natural sound — wind, rushing water, bird song, the changing of the seasons. He wrote and recorded it all by himself, ending up with a nearly 40-minute song cycle that’s wonderfully evocative of the quiet magic of rural Maine, ranging from pure ambience (opening track “Sundial”) to the ulovely, album-closing 15-minute “Cabinnacle.” For either an early morning or late night listen, “Appleton Cabin” is among the prettiest I’ve heard this year.