Tuesday, May 13, 2014

REVIEW: Kathleen Grace - No Place To Fall

Kathleen Grace has a clear, bright, beautiful voice, and impeccable taste in material. She swings back and forth from straight-ahead jazz to light alt-country with a sprightliness and ease that are as enjoyable as they are admirable. She's assembled a crack band on this record, including one of my favorite instrumentalists in the world, pedal steel gunslinger Greg Leisz. Leisz has played with a host of greats, including (just to name a very few) Los Lobos, Dwight Yoakam and Beck, bringing a sad, sweet quality to their music that nothing but perfectly-played pedal steel can deliver. And it's similar here. His playing provides a nice accompaniment, and at places, a counterpoint, to her vocals. Both are just wonderful by themselves, and even better combined.

Opening with a Townes Van Zandt composition is a courageous, assured move, and Grace does a terrific job with the track that gives the album its title.

The album features a few more inspired covers. Grace gives her own spin to Tom Waits' "The Briar and the Rose" and The Meat Puppets' "Plateau", as well as a suitably jazzy take on "Mood Indigo". "Plateau", in particular, is so left-field, yet so well done, it's the kind of thing you'll want to play for friends just to see if it dawns on them just what song this is. Grace, like the Puppets, is an Arizona native, which might explain both the song choice and the heart she puts into her cover.

Not only does she do great things with other folks' tunes, her originals here are wonderful. "A Fine Young Woman" is a country song that sounds like it might have been written some time ago. In fact, I started searching for it, to find out who wrote it all that time ago. Funny, Grace just wrote it recently. It is a great story song in the tradition of "Mama Tried" or "Saginaw Michigan" - great music that would almost work just as a short story.

No Place to Fall is out now (May 13) on Monsoon Records.

Kathleen Grace website

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