I make no secret that my hailing domain as a crit in the 80s and 90s was progrock, neoclassical, avant-garde, outside jazz, and other genres, but, once I got sick and tired of the illimitable a-holes populating the groves in prog criticism and magazine publishing, I experienced a need to get back to staples (folk, bluegrass, Americana, etc.), and fell in with FAME, I had NO idea my whole palette would expand so voluminously. To this day, I marvel at the transition, but it's CDs just like Kathleen Grace's No Place to Fall that are to blame, 'cause they represent a highly sophisticated melting pot so imbued with class and grace that to listen is to fall long and hard into a well of wonders, delights, sorrows, and soul-tugging artfulness.
Grace reminds me of early day mavericks like Tom Rapp, Dory Previn, Janis Ian, Gram Parsons, and others, composer-singers who stepped beyond the periphery while holding tightly to tradition, yanking the borderlines out further by inches, miles, and more. The promo lit claims No Place to be "classic country" but I beg to differ. There IS a lot of the classic vibe, and it goes WAY back to the earliest times, the Carter Family / Jimmie Rogers Bristol days, then even further to madrigal, but what she has done with country, folk, chamber, adagio, and God only knows what else is exceedingly hard to pin down…and I doubt very many countryficionados would call it their own (I'd have a lot more respect for 'em if'n they did, Jeeter). In many ways, I'm reminded of Nicki Schrire's equally unclassifiable but redolently plentiful style, an inspissation of so many modes that they often change not only from stave to stave but also within each measure.
Still, if you want to see where country lost its ass by getting all cowboy 'n macho 'n stuff, this is the CD to listen to. The folk antecedents are illuminatedly strong, you can practically walk Nashville back to England through them, but then there's another facet: the landscapes in each cut are so spare and the tracks so painstakingly arranged that they become textbook studies in delicacy and revelation. Striking, then, that this disc was cut live in studio. Did she and the bandmembers—all of whom display consummate taste and who have played with Clapton, lang, Musselwhite, Harper, and others—take weeks?, months?, years in arriving at what we hear?
That may well be, and it's been a lustrum since Kathleen issued her last release but in the meantime earned a Masters in jazz studies at USC and teaches there. Her three previous discs were jazz, though you'd never guess it from No Place, and she also covers songs by—now get this—Tom Waits, Talk Talk, The Meatmen, and others, though you'd never know that were you unfamiliar with the oeuvre in the first place, so completely does Grace bend them to her gentle will. As to range and capabilities, start with the Levant / Heyman classic Blame It on my Youth, where all her vocal powers take over, top to bottom…but it hardly matters. No matter where you cut in, you, too, will tumble down that well. Compelling stuff.
Edited by: David N. Pyles
Copyright 2014, Peterborough Folk Music Society.
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