There are some song-by-song notes in the press kit for Annie Capps’ album which offer a few glimpses inside the songs and their meanings, but it only scratches the surface. There’s a lot you have to work out for yourself and that’s exactly how it should be; when an artist puts a lot of work and ability into creating an album, then it’s only fair that the listener should be willing to put in a bit of effort to get the maximum out of it.

The press release focusses on the personal nature of the album’s twelve songs, but there’s a wider agenda: “the personal is political”. The songs are personal and autobiographical, but there’s also a wide current of feminism running through with songs highlighting misogyny, coercive control and bullying, and the hypocrisy in organised religion on gender and original sin. If you need to be convinced about the album’s feminist credentials, every person involved in the project, from start to finish, is female; from the artists to all of the production team. ‘How Can I Say This?’ is very much about the female experience.

The message is there from the opening song; ‘My Eden’ with its folk arrangement and string section spelling out the institutional sexism of the Catholic church and the way in which girls are made to feel guilt from a very early age through the concept of original sin. The sequencing of the album takes the story from this early indoctrination into coercive parental control and distorted self-perception. Ultimately, the journey takes us through grief and towards the melancholic fiddle-led closer, ‘Yesterday’, with its recognition of all the little daily events that signpost the path away from grief and back into normal life.

The arrangements for the songs are basically Americana settings with string band instrumentation and sprinklings of piano and organ and loads of backing vocals and harmonies and the songs themselves are beautifully crafted, poetic and memorable. A classic example is the album’s midpoint ‘My Father’s House’, where the story is a perfectly conceived tale of a woman visiting the house of her violent alcoholic father before its demolition. It’s not just a great story, there’s true poetry there as well: “My father’s House had eggshells across every floor, that’s bad news for this clumsy child” – and that’s just one example, the album’s full of poetry as well as memorable stories.

‘How Can I Say This?’ deserves your attention not just because it’s a pioneering project but because it’s packed with great songs and great performances. It’s the first great album I’ve heard this year.

Here’s a link to ‘My Eden’: