Kate Ellis “Spirals”

River ​Rose ​Records, 2022

A second album often shows how an artist is developing. ‘Spirals’ reveals a joyous arc of growth.

Kate Ellis’s new album, ‘Spirals’ is an absolute joy. An irrefutable, unquestionable joy. This is her second album, yet it reflects a mature view of the world, one that sees things clearly, without gilding the lily or throwing perfume on the violet. Ellis is like rock and rye, sweet without being cloying, a whisky kick that sharpens the taste without being bitter.  She is the real deal, having been around without becoming jaded. Ellis teaches us the difference between innocence and naiveté.

Her voice is as sweet and clear as a spring bubbling up through white sand into a pool among the pines. The production provides an engaging instrumental complexity without being distracting.  The producer, John Reynolds, deftly provides sounds that mirror the meaning of each song. And then there are the lyrics – Ellis writes deeply personal songs that are, at the same time, universal.  This is a rare gift and only the best writers have it.  While these songs will always be hers, they could – and should – be performed by anyone with a heart.

All her songs are love songs, in that love is complex, often painful, and much deeper than just romance.  Her songs recognize that only those who acknowledge their pain are open to all the love in their lives.  ‘Can’t Not’ is likely to become a classic heartbreak song. It captures the reality of love imbedded in one’s heart that continues even when after the end of the relationship.

‘Wonderland’ is a love song to nature,  a beautiful expression of the pain of destruction; ‘My heart’s aching,  Every inch of me is shaking, To see the beauty that we’re breaking, Our wonderland.’ The way the song builds is reminiscent of Dylan’s  ‘Like a Rolling Stone’ and it is just as compelling.

Could there be a sharper description of the destructive side of relationships than ‘Scars’?  It’s a country music version of ‘Who’s Afraid of Virginia Wolfe’ with all the complexity, drama and love compressed into three minutes.

‘The Story You’ve Been Told’ is a  beautifully written poem to the demons that haunt us all and confine us, and the love that would set us free if we would but accept it. ‘Another Way’ is required listening for anyone who wants to understand the sclerosis affecting Americans today, ‘Keeping tabs on who’s naughty and who’s nice,  He keeps his southern whiskey and his bitterness on ice,  And he railed at the injustice every day,  And he never stopped, ‘Cos he couldn’t see another way.’

The opening bars of ‘Bluebirds and Rye’ are the perfect introduction to a song for everyone’s daughter; offering the advice, ‘Hey little girl, it’s not far away You will have your day to shine, Trust me now, it’s too hard to live, When really you’re just scared to die.’

A second album often shows how an artist is developing. ‘Spirals’ reveals a joyous arc of growth.

9/10
9/10

About Michael Macy 7 Articles
A lifetime exploring American culture with a long misspent youth, work as a seaman and the railroad, and traveling with a professional fool. Degrees in American culture and law, worked a prosecutor, radio talk show host and presenting American culture as diplomat and cultural attaché in London, Riyadh, Delhi, Kabul, Bamako, Port au Prince, Tunis and Valletta.

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