Annie Keating “Hard Frost”

Independent, 2023

Annie Keating maintains her excellent standard with a lovelorn slice of Americana.

Annie Keating is a bit of a treasure and a longtime fixture on the Americana circuit. Based in Brooklyn for 30 years or more, she tours extensively across Europe with a variety of band members (UK this year with a crack British ensemble). She is a fine songwriter and this, her ninth full-length album, is sure to find favour with critics, as have most of her albums. Keating has been compared to artists such as Bonnie Raitt and Lucinda Williams, and her songwriting has echoes of John Prine. Hers is a smoky, lived-in kind of voice, leading to a singing style that seems breathy and semi-spoken on occasion.  Her songs are uniformly excellent and speak genuinely and honestly of love past and love lost, punctuated with humour and wit.

Hard Frost’ is produced, as was her last lockdown-driven and highly-acclaimed album ‘Bristol County Tides’, by top-notch producer Teddy Kumpel who also plays (brilliantly) all guitar parts.  The first-class New York-based band is completed by Richard Hammond on bass, Steve Williams on drums and the excellent Todd Caldwell on a number of keyboards, notably organ where the interplay between him and Kumpel on ‘Lovesick Blues’ is something special. The album is nicely paced, with some lovely slow-burn ballads in the second half leading to the fiery finale. The overriding mood is one of hope in the face of heartache and relationship disillusion.

The album kicks off with a cracking co-write with famed Canadian singer-songwriter Lynne Hanson, ‘Lies and Dynamite’, with great snarling guitar from Kumpel, and Hanson harmonies. It is possibly the standout track of the album.  ‘Looking for Trouble’ slows the pace somewhat and the album continues with some fine country (‘Keepsakes and Heartbreaks’), some slow blues (‘Sunshine Parade’) and a catchy waltz (‘Falling’) about a so far unrequited love “If I were a hound, I’d be up howling for you, Late into the evening by the light of the moon, If I were a lion you’d hear me roar, A wild kinda sound across the jungle floor” highlighting Keating’s witty side.

Lovesick Blues’ does what it says in the title, another track that highlights Keating’s smoky style, while ‘Wrong Guy’s Girl’ is a fascinating travelogue in the form of love song – not many songs reference as many places as this one does!

The second half standout is ‘Feels like home’,  a beautiful ballad about longing for a past love  “Was it easy to forget me or do you fail from time to time, When the North wind starts blowin’ I know what you’re hoping to find, Cause when I’m driving, windows open it’s you on my mind, I keep my promise, I keep my distance but it’s you I’m hoping to find”. Kumpel’s guitar really catches the mood, as it does on nearly every track. The album closes with a slowed-down version of  Sting’s classic ‘So Lonely’, with Keating’s fierce vocal emphasising her desperate loneliness with a repeated howl of the title.

All in all, another captivating addition to the Keating body-of-work.

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About FredArnold 54 Articles
Lifelong fan of predominantly US (and Canadian) country roots music. Previously an avid concert-goer before wives, kids and dogs got in the way- and although I still try to get to several, my preference for small independent venues often means standing, and that ain't too good for my ancient bones!! Still, a healthy and catholic music collection helps ease the pain
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