H.C. McEntire Credit: Heather Evans Smith

When Heather McEntire’s longtime collaborator in Mount Moriah, Jenks Miller, became busy with the demands of parenthood, she found herself piled up with songs without an outlet to release them. Spurred on by her friend Kathleen Hanna of Bikini Kill, the songwriter decided to step out on her own. The music on her debut solo album, Lionheart (Merge), pushes toward a more traditional vision of folk rock than Mount Moriah. It luxuriates in the confessional mode of a singer-songwriter, with gorgeous arrangements including passages of aching pedal-steel caresses from Allyn Love; honeyed harmony singing from Angel Olsen (with whom she’s been touring as a keyboardist), Tift Merritt, and Amy Ray; and lilting melodies shaped by guitarist William Tyler. McEntire made the record at home, with the instrumental support constructed piecemeal by her various helpers in remote locations, but it feels wonderfully whole. Her lyrics and country-flavored melodies convey the ardor she feels for the south. In her gospel song “When You Come for Me,” she pleads, “When you come for me / Let the mountains hold my bones,” while in “Baby’s Got the Blues” she artfully paints the setting with lines like “The dogwood and the chicory / And a silent wood stove flue.” In Mount Moriah McEntire gives listeners a kind of sideways take on country music; on her own she takes it on headfirst.   v