Sarah Louise's experimental folk combines traditional Appalachian folk with compositional tendencies, sepia-toned psychedelia, and elements such as microtonality and drone. After establishing herself as an artful composer and 12-string guitar (fingernail) picker on early releases in the mid-2010s, she introduced her warm, ethereal vocal tone on her singing and songwriting debut, 2018's Deeper Woods, her third full-length. Retaining the haunted, sinuous qualities of her sound and continuing to sing, she further explored texture on 2019's Nighttime Birds and Morning Stars, which swapped her trademark 12-string and song-specific tunings for a standard electric guitar, other acoustic instrumentation, and digital manipulation. Louise is also known as half of the neo-traditional folk duo House and Land.
Sarah Louise Henson started playing guitar at the age of 13, when one was randomly given to her by a stranger. As a high school student, she continued to favor the acoustic version of her instrument, partly due to an avoidance of the tech jargon that seemed to go along with electronic gear. To forge her own sound, she instead opted for the less-prominent 12-string guitar, eventually developing an intricate style that focused more on patterns and detail than on the big, rich sounds normally associated with the instrument.
Based outside of Asheville, North Carolina, Henson made her recording debut as Sarah Louise with the solo guitar album Field Guide in 2015. Though it originally had vocals, it was reworked as an instrumental for a cassette release by Scissor Tail Editions and received favorable reviews in some prominent indie-music publications. She followed it up a year later with VDSQ Acoustic Series, Vol. 12.
Sarah Louise then teamed up with Sally Anne Morgan (Black Twig Pickers, Pelt) to form the neo-traditional folk duo House and Land. They released an eponymous debut album via Thrill Jockey in 2017. The same label issued the self-engineered Deeper Woods, Henson's third solo LP and first to prominently feature her voice. She continued to experiment with her sound on 2018's Nighttime Birds and Morning Stars, which, unlike prior releases, was rooted in improvisations on an electric guitar with standard tuning and included synthetic timbres. ~ Marcy Donelson