Lucid Culture

JAZZ, CLASSICAL MUSIC AND THE ARTS IN NEW YORK CITY

CD Review: Katie Brennan – Slowly

Her breakthrough album, a quantum leap for multi-instrumentalist/singer Katie Brennan, who is equally adept at the concert harp as at the piano. That’s right; the concert harp, instrument of the angels. But this album doesn’t remotely resemble anything Joanna Newsom has ever done. Instead, it’s a richly melodic collection of lushly arranged, sometimes country-inflected ballads, a terrific effort that instantly vaults Brennan into the upper echelon of current sirens like Eleni Mandell, Rachelle Garniez and Neko Case. The recurrent theme throughout many of the songs is breaking away and starting anew, reflected in Brennan’s voice: many of these songs have a rain-drenched, nocturnal feel to them. Since her first album with her indie rock band the Holy Bones, her vocals have taken on considerable gravitas and nuance: she can still be playful and funny, she still has that soaring range, but she’s reined in that big vibrato that you used to be able to drive a truck through (metaphorically speaking, anyway). The result is an instrument finely attuned to the most minute subtleties in emotion. Credit producer Itamar Ben-zakay (who also plays drums and guitar here) for putting Brennan front and center amidst the often sweeping arrangements.

The album opens with the unabashedly romantic, aptly named title track, Brennan’s piano meticulous against her harp work. The album’s second cut, My Piano picks up the pace a little, with a decidedly defiant, even triumphant feel – the narrator, spinning her wheels in the big city, has made up her mind that it’s time to go back to the country. Grandpa’s Boat follows, its insistent beat reinforcing the lyric, a tribute to resourcefulness.

The best song on the album is the swaying 3/4 ballad La Casa Rosada, spiced with tasteful, incisive acoustic slide guitar accents and a gorgeous acoustic solo from Ben-zakay, with trumpet soaring in the distance:

Forget her and the arms of your loved ones
They don’t belong to the daylight
You have guided yourself much too long
To get lost in the halls of the past

Other standout cuts among the album’s eleven tracks include On His Own, a dead ringer for something from Meddle-era Pink Floyd, with guest dobro and lapsteel player Lenny Molotov’s shimmering, bluesy slide work; the cheery, upbeat Cherry Pie, which could be vintage, 1960s Dolly Parton backed by Gilmour and company; and the big 6/8 anthem If We Were Whiskeys, Molotov again providing gorgeously terse fills throughout. The album concludes with the authentically rustic, oldtimey Drunkard’s Prayer.

As of this writing Brennan – who’s done most of her music here in New York over the past few years – will shortly be returning to her native Seattle. Their gain, our loss. At least we have this great album (and hopefully a return engagement or two) for the memories. The cd is available online and at shows; Katie Brennan plays the cd release show for Slowly at Jimmy’s no. 43 on 7th street between 2nd and 3rd Aves., 9 PM on Friday, May 2.

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April 12, 2008 - Posted by | country music, Music, music, concert, review, Reviews, rock music | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

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