An album of simple, but not so simple, delights!
This is a good set of songs from a very talented songwriter with a very engaging singing voice. Abby Posner is a multi-instrumentalist living and working in L.A. Impressively, she has played virtually every instrument used on this recording (the exception being the fiddle played on ‘Wishing Well’, courtesy of M’Gilvry Allen) as well as writing and arranging all the songs and mixing and producing the final album. If that makes it sound like this is some cutesy, down-home-produced DIY album, stand by to be impressed!
A Kisbee Ring, for those that don’t know, is another name for a life preserver; the traditional ring seen on ships and by the side of lakes, etc. It’s a clever metaphor for an album full of songs about the need for help when we fall into dark places, be they a wild sea or a depression that might cloud an otherwise rational mind. It’s an album of songs about the need to be saved.
The press release describes Posner as a “Genre Fluid” artist, referencing her ability to incorporate a range of musical genres into her songs, supposedly pushing at the boundaries of what we consider to be roots-based music. This is, perhaps, misleading as it suggests that Posner’s music is experimental in some way and that’s not the case. In many ways, Posner is a little reminiscent of Joni Mitchell and that folkier side of the Laurel Canyon sound. That’s not to suggest that Posner ever sounds like Mitchell but she does incorporate aspects of jazz, especially in some of her timings, that reminds you of some of Mitchell’s attempts to blur the edges of her folk sound and you get that same approach from Posner. She’s not so much trying to re-invent a sound as to nudge it very slightly away from the obvious. Title track album opener ‘Kisbee Ring’ is a good example of this. Starting with a scat-sounding drum riff the song steadily builds, pulling in sounds that enhance and build texture around what could be a quite simple song but is elevated by the clever arrangement that never quite becomes predictable. Another reference point might be some of K.T. Tunstall’s early work. Posner uses a looping pedal to create much of her own backing on her songs, in the same way as Tunstall, and she also has that pop sensitivity that creates little hooks and riffs to grab attention and give a folk sounding track a little more commercial appeal.
If you listen to the first single release from the album, ‘Emergency Use Only’, there’s a simple catchiness to the track that belies how cleverly it has been constructed. It has a loping, almost lazy pace that becomes something of an earworm quite quickly, and the layered backing vocals, again all Posner’s own work, give it an easy sing-along feel. Very clever.
One of the stand out tracks of the album is the excellent ‘Wishing Well’. This is the track where Posner enhances her own talents with the fiddle playing of M’Gilvry Allen and additional vocals from Ross Newhouse. It’s a beautiful track, melancholy and hopeful in almost equal measures. Posner has said of this album that she wanted “to create a warm, vintage sound….I wanted it to feel like the listener was getting an auditory hug.” This track is the perfect embodiment of that sentiment. It also shows that, while Posner is a very competent, self-contained musician, she still knows how to collaborate and bring in the additional musicians that will take a track to the next level. She also uses an additional voice, Mary Scholz, on another stand-out track, ‘Joshua Tree’. It’s fascinating how the Joshua tree and the landscape it inhabits have become such a talisman for songwriters working in Americana. Abby Posner is another who clearly finds the imagery surrounding this plant a useful one for metaphors and painting pictures with words –
“Cactus standing like a ghost on a tombstone, crooked as a wing
Whispers howl from the walls of this old home, listen to them sing
where do you go when you lose yourself and the road is all you see
what do you do with the love you felt the mistakes are always free.”
There are no blistering revelations with this album; no sudden insights or moments of outstanding genius, but this is an excellent album of ten good songs, no filler, well delivered. Particularly impressive is the production quality on this album, given that it’s all the artist’s own work. Perhaps that’s not so surprising once you read this musician’s biography to date. Abby Posner has been around the L.A music scene for some time now, quietly but diligently honing her art. She has scored movies and written music for commercials and TV shows and is a regular performer both solo and with her band, Abby and The Myth. On the strength of this album, it would seem she is now poised for bigger things and this may well be the set of songs to promote her into the spotlight. If it isn’t then it can only be a matter of time before something does because this is a very talented singer/songwriter and one to watch with interest. Abby Posner; remember that name.