Album review: RACHAEL YAMAGATA – Tightrope Walker

RACHAEL YAMAGATA - Tightrope Walker

Frankenfish Records [Release date 04.11.16]

Virginia based singer-songwriter Rachael Yamagata’s 4th studio album, to be supported by US and European tour dates, is something of a departure on a number of levels.

Inspired by the ‘there is no why’ philosophy of Philippe Petit – the French high-wire artist famed for tightrope walking between the World Trade Centre Twin Towers in 1974, Yamagata dispersed with her usual process of narrowing down of around 200 songs, instead, focusing on just 15, repeatedly editing and reworking to find the right musical expression for each song, before whittling them down to a perfect 10.

Featuring a host of musicians, including 5 Grammy winners, and an eclectic array of instrumentation including saxophones, mandolins, rain recorded on an iPhone, French spoken word, metallic ironing boards and ladder drums, myriad harmonies and loops, the gestation of Tightrope Walker also saw Yamagata become a mother, a self-manager and producer.

The opening title track – an observational take on Petit’s remarkable feat – delivered with fluttering heart vocals over an atmospherically percussive backbeat takes the listener to a higher place, dripping with tension.

In a sometimes experimental set, Yamagata also manages to neatly straddle mainstream appeal, ‘Nobody’ builds to a sensual climax with breathy bedtime vocals, sultry pulsing keyboard beat, and off kilter guitar lines, while ‘Over’ is more Annie Lennox terrain.  ‘Let Me Be Your Girl’ visits classic Isley Brothers territory and could easily be a smash hit, and the reflective ‘Break Apart’ bleeds like a pierced heart.

Without question, Yamagata’s most intimate, and personal album to date, ‘Money Fame Thunder’ closes the set by neatly analogising traversing the travails of life with tightrope walking.  It’s nice to see an artist take a few chances without taking a tumble.  ****

Review by Pete Whalley



On Sunday 28 July 2019, David Randall celebrated his 600th show. “Assume The Position” started in June 2007 on UK City Radio before transferring a year later to Get Ready to ROCK! Radio. The show includes tracks played on the first show plus Upton Blues Festival highlights, new music and the regular features “Live Legends” and “Anniversary Rock” which this week celebrates the Island Records label 60th anniversary.

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Power Plays w/c 19 August (Mon-Fri)

BEFORE FIRE Dead Eyes (indie)
SCOTT & MARIA Never Give Up (indie)
CORELEONI Queen Of Hearts (AFM Records)
BERLIN Transcendance (Cleopatra Records)
PHIL CAMPBELL These Old Boots (Nuclear Blast)
PHIL LANZON Blue Mountain (Phil Lanzon Ditties/Cargo Records UK)

Featured Albums w/c 19 August (Mon-Fri)

09:00-12:00 SOLEIL MOON Warrior (Frontiers)
12:00-13:00 ROXY BLUE Roxy Blue (Frontiers)
14:00-16:00 DREW HOLCOMB & THE NEIGHBORS Dragons (Magnolia Music/Thirty Tigers)

Albums That Time Forgot (Mon-Fri)

JAMES STEVENSON Everything’s Getting Closer To Being Over (2013)



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