Sunday, August 31, 2014

Kathleen Grace: No Place to Fall - DownBeat

Kathleen Grace
No Place to Fall
*** 1/2

Historically, the overlap between jazz and country has most often met at the neck of a guitar, whether it's the lap steel of Western swing or Willie Nelson's battered arpeggiating through "Stardust."  But the intersection between the two genres goes at least as far back as Louis Armstrong and Jimmie Rodgers strolling through "Blue Yodel No. 9" in 1930.  Kathleen Grace learned an appreciation for music among the tumbleweeds of Tucson, Ariz., and something of that ethereal desert town cots each tune on this album with a layer of dust.  Echoes of Linda Ronstadt and Emmylou Harris' Tucson-indebted Western Wall reverberate on this recording, especially with the same ease and smattering of cover songs but the pace of this album never strays too far from a destination-less walk.  A cover of the Meat Puppets' "Plateau" has a hard time climbing out of the shadow of Nirvana's definitive MTV Unplugged rendition while Grace's original "I'm On Fire" is a sighing sway of patient guitars (a cover of the Springsteen song by the same name could've led to some interesting terrain.) Ellington's "Mood Indigo" benefits from the appearance of pedal steel guitarist Greg Leisz, whose languid curls dance around Grace's sly reading.  On "The Briar and The Rose," Grace offers a gorgeous three-part harmony with help from guest vocalists Jamie Drake and Leslie Stevens.  The trio blends seamlessly, evoking visions of matching bolo ties that elevate the original material to somewhere unexpected.  Hopefully on the next record, Grace can do a little more exploring in that corner of her world.

Kathleen Grace @ DownBeat

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