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KIRSTY MCGEE - The Kansas Sessions

KIRSTY MCGEE - The Kansas Sessions
 Hobopop HPCD004

Kirsty McGee seemed destined for the success her songs amply deserved when, several years ago, she was shortlisted for the BBC Radio 2 Folk Awards but, despite subsequently receiving regular airplay on that channel, wider recognition has substantially eluded her.

It is a convention to claim that the latest CD from the artist under review is the best yet - but, notwithstanding stiff competition from the back catalogue, this is actually true of The Kansas Sessions, deftly produced (in Kansas, naturally) by Mike West.  Accompanied with great subtlety by multi-instrumentalist partner Mat Martin and friends (including West himself), McGee delivers her lyrics in a clear pure voice, which, although tender to the casual listener, has unsettling undertones of steel and sensuality.

There may be moments of exuberance and wry humour, as in Bonecrusher and Killer Wasps, but McGee’s trademark emotions are regret and bitterness, generally in the wake of betrayal and lost love as in Sparks (‘We’re brought up to believe/In what we have and what we hold/But you can go to sleep in someone’s arms/And wake up in the cold’) and Faith (‘You say you will and you never do/I can trust no one like I trusted you/And I lost my faith in so many ways’). Even the brief rollicking reprise of The Profit Song in the obligatory hidden track fails to lift the prevailing mood of desolation; but because of the quality of both the writing and performance, the effect is cathartic rather than depressing.

The Kansas Sessions will consolidate Kirsty McGee’s already formidable reputation with discriminating listeners as a singer and songwriter and it should raise her profile in the mainstream.  If, inexplicably, it doesn’t it will merely (to paraphrase David Byrne on Richard Thompson) ‘serve her right for being so good’.

Dave Tuxford

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This album was reviewed in Issue 82 of The Living Tradition magazine.