Carry On, the fourth album by Whitney Mongé, is a bargain of singer-songwriter edged blues and pop flown on a flag of brevity. Mongé’s strongest attraction is found in the fluidity of feeling. These six songs sprinkled by mostly acoustic guitar, bow toward an intimacy achieved by letting Mongé shine in an uncomplicated way.
The muted strums and soulful twang on opener “Be Mine” holds hands with Mongé’s raspy plea. She avoids the pitfall of predictability by skirting the tempo, letting the music drop out and giving her voice space to generate speed and steam. Follow up “Day N Nite” focuses on Mongé’s command. Less about power, her restraint and timing does wonders vocally, weaving in, out and around snaking guitar solos. The discreet “Born Without Wings” continues to do more with less. Mongé sounds most original here, speaking of Seattle and Chicago amid murmuring slide guitar (Skyler Mehal), crisp electric guitar interplay (Arthur James), and unobtrusive rhythmic strumming. Mongé hits her stride just before the final minute with a poetic verse veering strongly into sage storyteller.
The charm throughout Carry On is embedded in Mongé’s emphasis on emotion. The gravelly intonations on “Wish You Waited” causally plays hopscotch under her acoustic guitar and the worried slide guitar whispers again on “The Family”, giving Mongé a cold, harrowing backdrop to cast a spell in. Possibly the best use of musicality and spacing, Mongé’s voice ignites around the percussive clanks of Marina Albero’s piano keys and her own aggressive, acoustic strums. The background chanting and liquid lines from Mehal’s masterful slide guitar won’t send shivers down your spine — it’ll de-spiral your heart.
Album finale, “Carry On” holds close to this previous emotional blaze as Mongé lets each word and note permeate; never rushing over vulnerability or trying to overshadow it by flare and glitz, Mongé does right by letting the mood canvas her pain into something larger than words. The final, lamenting 25 seconds find Mongé assuring listeners she’ll be fine, singing, “move along, it’s my time.” I agree. Whitney Mongé has arrived.