"Wayward" by Katherine Abbott
After the pleasure at being able to review "Lullaby For Lucas" by Katherine Abbott last month, I'm delighted that so little time has elapsed before being able to do so again, with her latest single "Wayward" which came out yesterday to similar levels of acclaim as its predecessor. If I spoke previously about an outbreak of jaw dropping, how gratifying that on this occasion I can tell you that ‘American Songwriter Magazine' have already picked up on "Wayward". As they put it "with a very subtle arrangement, gentle acoustics weave layers around Abbott's effortless voice and angelic harmonies, creating a melodic, ethereal atmosphere"
Produced by Katherine's long-term producer and engineer, Jonathan Fletcher, in his studio in Stratford-upon-Avon (he also plays the sublime & subtle guitar solo), the song fits in snugly with "Lullaby For Lucas" in terms of subject matter: each turns around a sense of journeying, both literal (it was composed on a single car journey from the Lake District to Birmingham, though I hasten to add that she was a passenger rather than driver) and in the sense of self discovery & consequent transformation. If the earlier song projected this onto a third party, then on this occasion the first person aspect is more prominent.
Although the overall premise is ultimately positive, the journey (as far as the song is concerned) is as rocky & winding as real voyages in this world always are. Founded upon the dislocation of the end of a relationship & the relocation to a new part of the country, the landscape manages to encapsulate many features from the concrete to the metaphysical: crossroads, choices, the sense of freedom, fantasy & pulling that back into practicality.
As I said before, Katherine writes intricate multi layered songs which pack a lot into such a short space of time (though I note with interest her assertion that "it was one of those blessed and rare occasions where I don't have to put a lot of thought into the writing process and the words and music unravel from me in one go without having to coax them out so much" as that certainly isn't what comes across: it just sounds so well crafted). This is one of those records repeated plays are essential for in order to appreciate just how much is going on in there.
Perhaps more overtly folkish in sound than last time, this song (composed in an alternate tuning), "Wayward" also has those jazz inflections too, but generally is on the ethereal side of fragile with the arrangement held back with admirable restraint & taste, exposing an equally understated vocal which is all the more effective for being so, with less of the "breathy" style I cited before.
Katherine aims to tour in 2021 which let's hope happens (I intend to catch her) and has a plan to release more songs beforehand which I thoroughly look forwards to.
"Lullaby For Lucas" by Katherine Abbott
Another first for me: my debut review of Stratford singer songwriter Katherine Abbott & my apologies as I'm arriving quite late at this particular party.
Her stunning new single "Lullaby For Lucas" was released the day before yesterday & is already attracting a lot of praise & the odd jaw is dropping at the quality of the writing (including by other artists reviewed in this magazine): which is matched by its delivery.
I fear sometimes in my reviews that I keep repeating a similar point at the diversity of voices in the contemporary Coventry & Warwickshire scene & how fortunate we are to hear so many writers & performers who simply do not copy each other nor famous names but remain true to themselves: while supporting each other. I would apologise but frankly each time the point is reinforced for me with songs like this: what else can I say if I am to pass honest comment? We are lucky: having been listening to local music for a significant number of years now, I can assure you that this state of affairs was far from always the case & perhaps we ought to celebrate it while we have it as it is a rare phenomenon.
I'm not even sure I can find the right words to describe Katherine's vocal nor instrumental sound: it is clearly something integral to her & as something organic & natural, it rings all the more true. Certainly breathy in style with folkish tinges, classical hints & intriguing wisps of other possibly more exotic influences which drift in & out of the melody a little too fleetingly to be able to pin down, tantalising us.
The song certainly appears to be what it would work well as: a gentle & loving song for a child's bedtime. Except Katherine again tantalises us because it's more than that as she wrote it about a wandering opera singer who had lost his voice whom she had met on the Camino de Santiago (how utterly romantic is that?) and manages within its four minutes to deal with the intricacies of relationships, forgiveness, the need to be non judgemental & how people can evolve through the challenges life puts before them. Heady ideas, but perhaps these are what one focuses in on while following a pilgrim's trail. It certainly also takes a rare talent to address so much in so short a time without seeming to cram it in & while retaining the air of simplicity so we listen & understand. There is a tremendous economy & precise use of lyrics & imagery at work to achieve this.
As you might expect from such an adept writer, her prose is as articulate as her lyrics & I really can't improve on what she says of the track so I quote it verbatim:
"It was inspired by one of those magic nights in a remote village bar where a group of people find
themselves unified somehow by winding up in the same place at the same time on their journey;
playing music and telling stories until the early hours. I think people can become the purest versions
of themselves when they're living in the moment, producing an honesty that can be hard to find
when living within the rigid everyday pressures and structures of society,'"
This is a really stunning single & though it's my first Katherine Abbott review, I'm determined that it will not be my last one.