One room and a group of friends singing, playing, eating, and drinking. It’s easy to see why the cozy confines of a house party are as an oasis for musicians in traveling in today’s troubled economic times. The vibe of the room influences everything; the sound, the energy, even the songs that get played. The saddest songs sound better when sung together, and the chill of the studio is taken out of the air.
For under appreciated Sudbury songwriter Kate Maki and her new record Moonshine, the room and the people in it define each and every note. Settled into a basement with a collection of talented friends (Brent Randall on keys, Dale Murray on slide, Nathan Lawr on the skins, Dan Levecque on guitars, Paul Lowman on upright bass and David Mackinnon on organ), Maki shared her sketches with her new session band.
Moonshine dances freely, embracing the freedom of spontaneity. Surprisingly strong arrangements grew organically over dinners and drinks, and even though the vibe of the album is that of a live record, not one note drifts or loses focus. The songs, the most authentic and enjoyable Maki has put on record to date, crackle but rest on foundations as solid as bedrock. The gentle stomp of “Golden Thorns”, the keys and organ on “Fought The Cattle” and the impromptu jam that closes the swooning “Hanging On” hint at a playfulness that only surfaces when the stage lights start burning, but it’s the spot on harmonies and beautiful tapestries stitched with love that make this record so successful.
If you love country/folk music, I don’t know how you can hear the band harmonizes over top of the gentle bass plucks and twinkled ivories of “Fade to Grey” and not want to sing along, but really that holds true for every song on Moonshine. So solid that few songs stand out, Maki and her friends put together a snapshot in time you feel obliged to let it play start to finish each time you put it on. Sadly, most of us will only get to hear the songs in small clubs or on record in some stripped down fashion, but to be in the room when these songs were put to tape would have been magical. Thankfully Moonshine documents the experience.