Pete Feenstra chatted to Kat Pearson on Sunday 14 March for Get Ready to ROCK! Radio
Tone Trade Records [Release date 06.01.20]
Kat Pearson is a London based, West Coast American roots-rock singer with a blues heart.
Unlike many of her contemporaries, she enjoyed early career commercial success with Black Girl Rock and D:ream, while somehow managing to miss the big time with the very popular Comanche Park, after signing to Columbia records for 2 albums
Fast forward 15 or more years, and she started her journey into her musical antecedents with the London based guitarist/producer and label boss Francesco Accurso in Kat & Co, with who they cut two albums.
‘My Roots’ is her debut solo album. It’s full of lyrical reflection and autobiographical tales anchored by a fine band. The latter is given plenty of room to stretch out, but they always support the song.
The ‘live in the studio’ approach also gives the players room to breathe and Pearson a bit more edge as she attacks the songs with gusto and in her brusquer moments offers a distant reminder of Eartha Kitt.
It’s hard to imagine that producer guitarist Francesco Accurso, wasn’t an integral part of Marco Marzola’s Trio before this recording. His interplay with the Chuck Leavell influenced pianist Nico Menci and the rhythm section of Marzola on double bass and drummer Lele Barbieri is outstanding.
That said, given that his relationship with Pearson extends to over a decade, it’s perhaps unsurprising that his intuitive playing and attentive production gives the album its vitality.
‘My Roots’ opens with the evocative, slide-led spoken word blues of ‘Cane Creek’ (with just a hint of southern rock.)
Pearson’s expressive vocal gently eases into her understated range to draw the listener into some colourful imagery.
As with the album as a whole, Menci’s gently voiced piano work is impeccable, hovering over Marzola’s treacly bass and Barbieri’s deft brush work.
The following ‘When The Blues Is Over’ is a defining song, as KP delivers her own personal mission statement. “No one can tell me the hell what to do.”
The song’s message suggests coming out the other side of life experiences as a stronger person. The cool jazzy diversion over a walking bass line provides the perfect conduit to a pounding drum resolution that gives the album extra impetus.
Pearson is clearly a vocalist who believes in the less is more approach. She frequently delivers her opening verse and chorus and then lets the band extends the feel of the song, as on the reflective ‘The Truth’ and the outstanding ‘Can’t Leave It Behind’.
The latter is a lovely groove in which the hypnotic piano figure and interwoven guitar line provides the perfect support for her exclamatory vocal.
The refreshing thing about this album is the way Pearson reconnects with her musical roots through well written and heartfelt songs. They are shot through with integrity and emotional weight, as part of a musical journey with a linear flow.
The album moves from a sultry opening to a harder edged rocking blues to an after hours feel on the impassioned slow blues of ‘Where I belong”, on which her husky phrasing is perfectly supported by a band that wrings every possibility from the material
The atmospheric ‘Ode To My Mother’ veers into cinematic mode with echoey tremolo guitar over some portentous percussion, as Kat delivers an outstanding vocal that digs deep for emotion.
Accurso’s sinewy guitar break cuts through the track like a torch in the dark, with subtle support from pianist Barbieri.
The notably bigger production track lifts the album, but then as if to emphasise the dynamics at play, you only have to wait one more song before the minimalist contrast of ‘Until I Get What I Need’.
Accurso’s’ slightly over-extended piecing and distorted buzz-tone guitar opening racks up a tension which Kat fills with an impassioned vocal.
He then employs a cleaner tone backed by a sumptuous bass line on the rocking ‘Nothing Left To Lose’, a tale of a same sex relationship gone wrong.
And so to the rip-roaring shuffle boogie finish of ‘Labour’s Train’ with its biting lyrics: “When you’re proud to be black, but still trading in hope.”
The combination of Pearson’s husky vocal and Accurso’s wild slide guitar builds an intensity to frame her self affirming autobiographical lyrics. Only a rather perfunctory finish robs the album of the climactic rocking finale it deserves.
‘My Roots’ is a long overdue solo album from an exhilarating vocalist who has much to impart. Her exploration of all shades of blues runs deep enough to warrant frequent revisits. ****
Review by Pete Feenstra
The latest Josh Taerk live session was streamed on Sunday 26 September. This marked the start of a new monthly series. Josh’s next session is Sunday 31 October.
David Randall presents a weekly show on Get Ready to ROCK! Radio, Sundays at 22:00 BST (GMT+1, repeated on Mondays and Fridays), when he invites listeners to ‘Assume The Position’. This show was first broadcast on 26 September 2021 and includes the Top 10 albums at www.getreadytorock.com for that week.
UK Blues Broadcaster of the Year (2020 and 2021 Finalist) Pete Feenstra presents his weekly Rock & Blues Show on Tuesday at 19:00 ( BST, GMT+1) as part of a five hour blues rock marathon “Tuesday is Bluesday at GRTR!”. The show is repeated on Wednesdays at 22:00, Fridays at 20:00). This show was first broadcast 28 September 2021.
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