Some critics tag Kathryn Mostow folk and that is no big surprise because Mostow calls Seattle home and that city has always stuck by the genre. Indeed, Seattle (alongside Chicago, San Diego and a handful of New England states) has lived and breathed folk music from beginning to present and has a very developed support system of venues devoted to the cause. For decades, it has been a major stop for such luminaries as Jim Post, Tom Paxton, Utah Phillips and the like (it was, after all, home to a major folk group of the hootenanny days, The Brothers Four). Add popularity of local and regional favorites like Reilly and Maloney who were huge there in the '80s and streetsinger-turned-politico Jim Page, cult figure and razor-blade-sharp satirist-with-guitar, and you get the idea.
The thing is, the critics are only partly right. Mostow does embrace the the folk past on some songs, true, but steps beyond the realm on others. When she does, she fully captures the aura of the late '60s and early '70s when Judy Collins, Joni Mitchell and Sandy Denny dominated the female side of the genre. There was a softer, more introspective feel to many of the efforts then which is seldom heard today. Mostow captures it beautifully in Promise of Spring and Hello World, songs which would sandwich nicely between songs by any of the aforementioned greats. Mostow takes it a step further with Pray Hard, a soft-rocking ballad of early Stephen Stills ilk (it reminds one of maybe Church (Part of Someone), possibly because the chorus emulates the chorus of the Stills' classic). It doesn't hurt that Joe Crookston and Wayne Horvitz back up perfectly on tremolo guitar and Hammond b3, respectively. Mostow tiptoes into Rory Block's acoustic blues territory with a fine upbeat tune called Peanut Butter Blues, her normally floating voice stepping upfront admirably. All I, in which co-producer and backing voice Alicia Healey helps Mostow fingersnap her way through the lighter side of folk/gospel, is well-balanced and reverential and comes off very well.
The rest of the songs on the CD highlight the problem of pigeon-holing artists these days as, beautiful though they are, they defy genre. They do showcase Mostow's voice and compositional skills as singer/songwriter. Let us call them, say, "Americana" (thanks be to the person who gave us this junk mail approach to criticism), and that is not to say that they are not worthy, but just hard to define.
All of the ten songs here ride the crest of Mostow's voice which easily places her among the best Seattle has these days (and that is plenty good). A purity to the voice allows it to shine through, though one also need credit the fine understated production of Mostow, Healey and Garey Shelton, at whose studio this was finished. On a side note, Shelton shows a maturity beyond his days with Hi-Fi and his bass is perfecto. Ditto with other class guest artists: Jami Sieber/cello, Paul Elliot/fiddle, Zak Borden/mandolin and Wayne Horvitz/keyboards, to name a few. Indeed, all who played on this fit seamlessly within this project. The result is first class.
As good as it is, I would love to hear Mostow in an auditorium acoustically designed for solo performance. She proves on this CD that she can recreate that unexplainable aura of early folk and at times I think it is all but lost. Call it nostalgia or what you will, I long for it occasionally. It would be good to hear it again.
Edited by: David N. Pyles
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