Joan Didion once wrote, “A place belongs forever to whoever claims it hardest, remembers it most obsessively, wrenches it from itself, shapes it, renders it, loves it so radically that he remakes it in his own image.” For Vancouver transplant Tanya Gallagher, that place just might be Virginia.
Born and raised near what’s described as the Florida-Alabama line, 2013 saw her drive across the continent to take up a life in Vancouver to start a PhD in forestry. It was only the latest in a series of moves that have made Gallagher well-known in both countries, and left a part of her rooted in one the one city she kept returning to, no matter where she went.
The titular song—written on a late friend’s old guitar—masks its tribute to the city with an artful metaphor about a lover she keeps returning to before naming the place that “stole her heart.” A sultry tone lends credence to the passion, and fills the song with a tangible longing to return.
Each of the seven tracks on her second release is touched, in their own way, with Gallagher’s travels—including the twangy, defiant “Southern Soul” that explains, “It’s hard now to go out on my own/ And to leave behind everything I’ve known,” safe in the knowledge she’ll be called back again.
“Monterey” is beautiful recovery from a broken heart, full of modern post-relationship voyeurism, resolution, and the last traces of wavering that prolong agony. “Farewell to Arms” adds its own struggle, as Gallagher learns unfamiliar streets as she walks off an old relationship.
Quiet and brief “Fables and Fallacies” parses the fairytales for the illusions that they are, and finding a sense of closure. “The Ship” is far more blunt with the fallout, the melodic strumming belying the matter-of-fact observation that “He’ll take any old port in a storm.” Finally, there’s peace in “3002 Miles,” a song that’s more about moving on than moving, as Gallagher charmingly sings, “Now that you’ve gotten all you wanted/ I just wanted to say fuck you.”
Virginia opens with Gallagher rooted in place, in origin, and back in her music despite the challenges of a PhD. But it’s the second half that shows how much it must have meant to have a place to come home to—even if she only makes it back every few years.
Top Track: “3002 Miles”
Rating: Proud Hoot (Really Good)