Kathleen Grace has a voice as fresh and wholesome as Doris Day or Toni Tenille, but don't be deceived by that or by the ultra-mellifluous intro to the opening title cut here because there are subtle depths, metaphor and meaning, underneath the sirenic surface. The band itself signals the hidden deception when shifting to a fragmented jazz tempo beneath lyrics taken from fable, the Snow White tale, that soon question life and its skewed emphases.
Penny then clones the concept in the sophomore cut but Perry Smith's demented guitar tears down any conceit of comfort along with Grace's beautifully encanted words burrowing into questions of power, command, and place. Like Dudley Saunders (here), the chanteuse sounds to be one thing but is really quite another. Above it all, the crafting in her voice is staggering. Nancy Wilson is a common reference point but there's more than a little Ella Fitzgerald too. True, Ella was off into skoobly-op territory at the drop of a hat, something Grace eschews (save for a brief foray in The Furies), but Fitzgerald's pitch was jaw-dropping, as is this singer's.
Nor is the media comparison to Joni Mitchell inapt, but Joni never really occupied exactly the space Grace does, the latter much more traditionally nightclub jazzy, and Elijah introduces her Sade side luxuriously. A reading of standards by this meadowlark would match or surpass that of Kimiko Itoh, Tenille, Carly Simon, and everyone but Ronstadt…and only because I don't think Linda's sessions with Nelson Riddle will be one-upped in our lifetime.
The band is elegant as hell but also cracked and psychologically incisive when needed. A Place for You is a lovely lullabye-ish floater that keeps its atmosphere, but one can never be sure what will happen next in this collection of slowly invasive reversals. Mirror is a gorgeously crafted self-produced EP of seven cuts almost shocking for its perfect discernments (few artists are this disciplined in production), and for the moment all that Grace wished to vend, but the riveting nature of her voice and sparkling support more than make up for what would otherwise be a short-timed dearth. Normally, I bitch about such things; here, I'm very much entranced.
Edited by: David N. Pyles
Copyright 2009, Peterborough Folk Music Society.
This review may be reprinted with prior permission and attribution.
Website design by David N. Pyles