Tigga Records [Release date: 01.11.17]
‘Legacy’ has a profound meaning for vocalist Kate Gee and her band who saw their original producer Mike Dolan die half way through a project that took 5 years.
And while Kate Gee’s ethereal phrasing is the focal point of a wide ranging album – think Juie Tzuke meets Sandy Denny with a Joni Mitchell influence – ‘Legacy’ is very much a collaborative album. The band contributes significantly to the arrangements with instrumental depth and subtle solos.
Kate Gee comfortably fits into the roots genre, spanning rock, blues, folk, jazz and even country. 13 of 15 generous tracks are penned by Kate and bassist Dave Gee, while the vibes playing producer Poli Palmer brings additional tone colour and an intuitive approach to a compact sound.
Kate’s liner notes explain that 6 tracks had already been cut with her late producer Mick Dolan, while a further 7 were at the ‘skeletal stage before his unfortunate demise.
The upshot is Palmer plays on 10 of the tracks and produces nine of them. He teams up with drummer and percussionist Rob Mason to great effect on two of the album highlights.
‘Hope’ the second track in, provides the perfect showcase for Kate’s voice. Her arresting opening phrase has echoes of Sandy Denny and Joni Mitchell and draws the listener in. Poli provides a counter-balance with a beautifully voiced ascending vibe line, offset by Bob Wilson edgy toned guitar over Rob Mason percussive caress.
Then deep into the album, there’s a sister track called ‘Stones’, which finds the band immersing themselves in a subtle groove that provides Kate with plenty of space in which to phrase eloquently.
Curiously for an album that showcases her versatility, there’s a shade too many mid- tempo outings that rob her of making an impact with her mellifluous style.
She opens in a Judie Tzuke vein on the melodically strong ‘Back From Where You Came’, which is topped and tailed by an acoustic figure, but is just a shade too circumspect.
Her voice is beguiling on ‘Dream’, with punchy drums from Rob Mason and a subtle synth bed from John Broomhall, as her vocal washes over the track to evoke the subject matter of the song.
The unexpected jazzy, smoky bar ambience of ‘You Don’t Love Me Anymore’, is both a fine showcase of her vocals and a welcome change of direction. And the same vibe is later revisited on the gentle jazzy shuffle of ‘Don’t Let Your Lover Go Away’ which is a fine showcase for some after hours crooning alongside Patsy Gamble’s cool horn arrangement.
‘Legacy’ works hard to find meaningful contexts for Kate voice. She gently hovers over the band’s intricate arrangements, as she shifts from the gentle percussive sheen of ‘Smiling Eye’- the first of two successive love songs – to the meditative ballad ‘I Believe In Love’.
Her pitch and clarity of diction make each word count on a subtle production anchored by what sounds like distant aching pedal steel and John Broomhall’s gentle piano. It’s a beautiful track that distils the essence of the band.
Having drawn us into the very core of her craft, she then makes the mistake of slipping into a country tinged song when the flow of the album demands an uplifting piece.
‘Strong Enough’, goes some way to providing a counterweight with a Carly Simon meets James Taylor West coast feel on one of the best songs from the Gee partnership.
Bob Wilson’s big electric guitar figure opens ‘Walk On By’, a song which benefits from an effortlessly phrased uplifting hook, but again lacks impact because not enough attention has been paid to sequencing.
That said, ‘Think It Over’ is a radio friendly outing. Bob Wilson’s repeated buzz guitar riff (reminiscent of Crispian St. Peter’s ‘The Pied Piper’) and Patsy Gamble’s belated sax solo go some way towards providing much needed vitality.
But there’s still time for a couple more impressive outings, notably ‘You Never Have To Be Alone’, a radio friendly MOR outing with a strong melody and repeated catchy hook.
The album is book-ended by a spoken word poem, with minimalist musical accompaniment, on the perfect example of her ability to deliver a lyric.
‘Legacy’ is made with love and care and features some great playing. It’s also the perfect introduction to a stellar Birmingham vocal talent.
There’s enough inspiring moments, tempered only by an over reliance on mid tempo material. We await her second album with a real sense of anticipation and hope it doesn’t take another 5 years in the making. ****
Review by Pete Feenstra
Pete Feenstra presents his Rock & Blues Show on Get Ready to ROCK! Radio every Tuesday at 19:00 GMT, and “The Pete Feenstra Feature” on Sundays at 20:00
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Pete Feenstra celebrated his 300th show in October 2019. Pete heads up a five-hour blues rock marathon when “Tuesday is Bluesday” from 19:00 GMT. Listen out also for his interview-based Feature show on Sundays (20:00 GMT)
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