Polished, Poetic Pop
Kate Fenner: Dead Reckoning
(Independent / 15 January 2023)
- Stream "Dead Reckoning" on Spotify.
With a clear and expressive voice that wraps around the songs, Kate Fenner's Dead Reckoning is a collection of thoughtful pop for adult listeners. The Canadian native is now based in New York City.
Kate talks about the album's inspiration in a release. “When my friend Mike was dying in December of 2019, I came across an Amy Hempel poem about the failure of language when faced with things like death—
At the end, I wanted to comfort him.
But what I said was, Sing to it. The
Arab proverb: When danger approaches, sing to it.”
That's not to say the tracks are melancholy. My River is an introspective piano ballad, while Transit of Venus has a latin-esque groove - and the 11 tracks cycle through a range of moods. Kate's voice is fluid, reminiscent of musical theatre training in its technical facility.
Her lyrics are thoughtful and poignant. From Quiet Rider:
Quiet rider, boots dug in the flank
With reins you guide her, sky so wide and blank
Ever watchful, but you don't see anything
Just feel the breath flow and the air around you sing...
Her voice floats effortlessly above the music, consisting of good old school instrumentation - piano and keyboards, guitar (including pedal steel), cello and violin, along with the usual percussion and upright bass. Her music is described as singer-songwriter or folk, but I'd add atmospheric. Ghost Moon is a standout track with a mesmerizing slow groove.
It's contrasted nicely by That Fire, an intriguing track that blends elements of roots rock with psychedelic. It epitomizes her imaginative touch when it comes to songwriting.
You'll be impressed by the artistry on all levels of this release.
Personnel: Stéphane San Juan—drums and percussion; Connor Schultze—electric and upright bass; Mark Spencer—guitar, pedal steel guitar, piano, Wurlitzer, organ, Mellotron; Tony Scherr—bass on 1, 7; acoustic guitar on 7; electric guitar on 4, 7, 9; Jason Moran—piano on 1; Scott Harding—electric guitar on 3, 5, 8, 9, Mellotron 2, 9, Moog on 5, string arrangement 1, 10; Chris Brown—organ on 5, strings, wurlitzer and additional production on 4; Lucien Clough—intro and outro piano on 10, guitar on 4; Agustin Uriburu—cello on 1, 7, 10; acoustic guitar on 2; Tomoko Omura—violin, viola on 1; Kate—singing, acoustic guitar on 3, 6, 8