Album Review: Mama’s Broke, ‘Narrow Line’

Canadian duo Mama’s Broke (Lisa Maria and Amy Lou Keeler) weaves rich and luscious harmonies, old-time and Celtic melodies, and ingeniously crafted lyrics through the eleven songs on their second album, Narrow Line.

The album’s opening track, the minor-chord-laden “Just Pick One,” enters quietly on a few bars of fingerpicked guitar before banjo, dobro, and vocal harmonies fill it out. The song paints a stark portrait of the ways we’re defined by the choices we make—or refuse to make—in our lives. The old-time melody carries lyrics, which counsel: “I know weakness is a sickness and a virtue/And cold bitter winds are never-ending/So just pick one, it’s a season, it’ll run through.”

The descending notes in each verse of the title track mimic the descent into hell faced by thousands of immigrants separated by the “narrow line” of the border between two nations. The song’s lyrics, meanwhile, evoke the nightmarish conditions that create the narrow line between freedom and captivity—also life and death—on the U.S.-Mexico border. Plaintive banjo rolls create an even more poignant soundscape, capturing the palpable interplay between loss and hope on the journey toward liberty.

The medley “Oh Sun/Pale Night/Forgetting Reel” moves from a raw a cappella declaration—vocals sung in a round and then in harmony—that the sun shines on both the good and the bad.

Unfurling slowly, the Celtic “Between the Briar and the Rose” captures the can’t-live-with-you- can’t-live-without-you character of lovers who know that parting brings joy and freedom as well as sorrow and yearning. “The Wreckage Done” opens with sparse cello lines and vocals before rolling into a spry ramble, fueled by sprightly fiddles. The song’s alternating tempos evoke the disillusionment and regret we often feel when we’ve burned bridges, when people are blind to the destruction they have wrought, and then embracing the burdens we carry.

In fact, every song on Narrow Line carries insights into the ragged ambivalence of life. Whether this flows from a personal relationship or the shattered pieces of nature or society that seem beyond repair, there is still room for hope and resilience. Mama’s Broke’s spare and moving harmonies build over layers of swirling banjos and fiddle runs, creating a lush, spacious sound that stirs us emotionally and transports us.


Narrow Line is available HERE.


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