C.F. Watkins has a voice for soul-baring and storytelling. It is beautiful—lush, velvety, and strong, but able to express vulnerabilities. She can transform it in an instant from the low croon of Leonard Cohen to the confident folk melismas of Joni Mitchell. On “Stone Mountain,” off of Watkins’ I Am New (released December of last year), her voice covers that whole range and more.
Accompanying the song is a gorgeous video that provides a soulful story to match Watkins’ singing. At six minutes and ten seconds with a clear narrative arc, it functions almost as a short film in three acts. The first part begins in a pastoral setting, with a blonde Watkins walking through fields and brushing a horse, until a horn section and bass-heavy percussion escalate into a scene with hair dye dripping into the sink. When the noise fades out, Watkins emerges as a brunette from a subway station in New York, where she walks removed from people, objects, and even the animal she loved in the first part. She ends this section with the lyrics, “She was a rare and shiny bird that he couldn’t cage / Why would he cage her?” The third act cuts between the two settings.
Mirroring Watkins’ own move to New York from North Carolina a few years ago, it’s hard not to read the video as autobiography—a not-too-far-fetched theory supported by the camera itself, which closely follows her viewpoint. It tracks her at all times, zooming in on her bundled-up body, her face, her hair, and even the notebook in her hand, which bears the hand-scrawled words to “Stone Mountain.” Like her album title, I Am New, and the evocative voice that carries this gorgeous song from it, the video for “Stone Mountain” feels like a frank and beautiful statement direct from the artist’s soul.