Top positive review
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"She's gone to a new place now."
on 29 September 2007
"I am wandering now.
Through this world
I am wandering, wandering,
These are the days I live now."
AWKWARD ANNIE is beautiful and melancholy. I don't want to read too much into the music knowing how difficult the last two years have been for Kate. I can imagine, though, it must have been as tough as her liner notes indicate. It's funny how you want artists you love to be happy and free from the heartaches which plague most humans. John McCusker must have been a tough genius to live with. The good news is that Kate has made one helluvah debut as producer and arranger. Definitely not adrift without the guiding brilliance of John.
The poignancy is potent in many places in the record--most strongly in "The Bitter Boy," "Farewell," "Planets," "Andrew Lammie" and "Daughter of Heaven." How many of the lyrics and sentiments are meant to be autobiographical I don't know--hard to avoid thinking so with "The Bitter Boy." As to her usual high standard, she mixes lovely traditionals (for which she's written music) and several gorgeous originals which--as is always the case with Kate--sound somehow old and new at the same time.
One characteristic, I think, of her producing and arranging is a new emphasis on instrumental interludes in the midst of the songs. I count eight songs in which the magic combination of instrumentalists are allowed to do their own thing for extended periods. How beautiful those players play. Several songs have a whole group of string players and several others a great mix of horns. The banjo figures in several songs more than in previous albums. And what a group of harmony singers: Eddi, Chris, Joe and the amazing deep voice of John Hudson. The latter and Eddi Reader work such choral magic in my favorite song on the album, "Blooming Heather," that I get goosebumps every time I listen to it. This--in spite of all the versions I've heard and liked of this song under its more common name, "Wild Mountain Thyme." This is the best version, the most moving one, I know of this great song. Overall, my favorites are "The Bitter Boy," "John Barbury," "High on a Hill," "Planets," "Daughter of Heaven," and, of course, "Blooming Heather." One signature moment--Donald Shaw's gorgeous piano work in "John Barbury." Exquisite. And Kate and Eddi were made to harmonize.
I hope the artistic achievement of AWKWARD ANNIE and the support of her family give Kate much solace.