Thursday, January 17, 2008

Reviews:: Kate Maki On High

Talent attracts talent. When it comes to music, it's just that simple. Kate Maki's newest release, On High, features production and musical contributions from the like of Dale Murray, Howie Gelb, Nathan Lawr and Dave Draves. If you are a cynic, you could say any album with those names attached to it has to be good, but to be more realistic, you have to be a fantastic songwriter to get those people involved.

Kate Maki has more than her fair share of great songs on this release, and make no mistake, even with all of the talent contributors, the songs are truly hers. The record opens with Highway, an acoustic ditty that showcases Kate's warm vocals. Whether its her effortless transition into falsetto or the subtle husk she drops to at the right time, her voice is the centerpiece of this musical buffet. Murray's pedal steel work paints a nice backdrop, as do the deep kick of Lawr's bass drum and Gelb's electric noodling, but they are only side dishes. The meat and potatoes are clearly Maki.

And to be completely honest, that is the case for most of these songs. If you sat down and heard Maki play alone on a stage, sitting on a stool with just her acoustic (like she does on Wanted Ads or the incredibly charming We Are Gone), you'd listen happily. But the density her friends add on the bigger songs help transform On High from a simple, acoustic folk effort into a surprisingly lush recording.

On Blue Morning, the country harmonies she sings with Murray along with his big bending steel notes send the track into a gallop, creating nice open terrain that lets Gelb roam freely with his electric. Each part is added so naturally and gracefully that when Lawr's piano appears, it grabs your ear and leaves politely without ever disrupting the country shuffle of the song.

As so often the case with bloggers, I'll point out that if Maki's record gets heard by the masses it will be grabbing spots on the Apple homepage like Juno-beneficiary Kimya Dawson. Tracks like Lawr/Maki written Badminton Racquet and Wanted Ads portray the same innocence (despite the stark subject matter on the latter) and for lack of a better description, are adorable.

She makes a lot of smart choice in sequencing this record. As Wanted Ads fades, White Noise flows perfectly from it. With Gelb jumping on the piano to drive the slinky, double acoustic track the band finds a bit of spunk and perks . The ivories resonate alongside the harmonies and Kate reveals how easily she can become a commanding front woman.

Even with all the instrumentation, her voice grabs a hold of your ears and refuses to let go. Maki has the unique ability to play towards the strength of her talented supporting cast when the song calls for it, or push forward on her own. This strength and versatility shows when the band finds it's funkiest groove on Beyond the Sun or the clack percussion and train whistle filled To Please.

In short, there's a reason why Maki has collected album on the year awards in Northern Ontario each time she sets foot in the studio. There's a reason why talented musicians work with her, and On High gives you eleven reasons why you should listen to her.
[MP3]:: Blue Morning

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Posted at 11:05 AM by ack :: 0 comments

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