Erin McKeown - Distillation
Recorded over five months in a farmhouse in Western Massachusetts and self financed by McKeown herself, this album is a real labour of love. She's spent the past 5 years touring America and earlier this years she toured with The Be Good Tanyas in the UK. This is how music should be played with raw spirit and natural talent and "Distillation" is the sound of genius being born. Without sophisticated technical equipment Erin McKeown proves that all you need is a good voice, wonderful lyrics and a natural ability to perform.
"Didn't They" has elements of jazz, country and folk. The sparse instrumentation matched with a voice rich in character works beautifully. With the minimum of piano, drums and guitar this has a quaint old fashioned charm all of it's own and still remains fresh and exciting with repeated listens. On "Fast As I Can" Erin sounds a little like an edgier Suzanne Vega. The gentle guitar strumming and lush vocal adds to the slow tempo. Erin sings "Girl you sleep with success which gives the song a feminist perspective. The subject matter, the pitfalls of success is handled very intelligently and suits it's mournful mood.
Another slow song is "How To Open My Heart In Four Easy Steps". Erin's crystal clear vocal is drenched in emotion. It has a classic sound with backing vocals which could melt the hardest of hearts. The honesty in the lyrics is admirable, but at nearly six minutes long is a tad self indulgent. Much more enjoyable is the catchy "Love In Two Parts" which would probably bring the house down at one of her live shows. Towards the end it goes off on a tangent, but with lyrics about love, liquor and Walt Whitman who in their right mind could resist this track.
I much preferred the livelier uptempo tracks as they have much more of an impact than the subdued melancholy moments on the album. Erin McKeown truly is a wonderful eclectic discovery and as she plays bass, piano, mandolin and banjo an accomplished multi-instrumentalist as well. What you waiting for - buy now!!!
Nicholas Paul Godkin
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