Katie Pruitt “Mantras”

Rounder Records, 2024

Power pop and rock as a lesson in self-help.

A songwriter and musician who shot to instant acclaim for her 2020 debut album ‘Expectations’, Katie Pruitt could not have chosen a more fitting title for her follow-up release. That is because in those interim years her practice of self-talk therapy which included writing phrases of encouragement, her mantras, pulled her out of a destructive loop of negativity. As she puts it, “‘Mantras’ is a full circle journey from self-sabotage to self-compassion”. During this time she managed to rid herself of the need for external validation for everything she did. The second album often fails to live up to its predecessor, particularly one as highly rated as Pruitt’s. If ‘Mantras’ has a bigger, perhaps more commercial sound, then that shows an impressive self-confidence after such tough times.

Pruitt gets straight to the point with opener ‘All My Friends’. Soft rock it may be but there’s no denying her strong beliefs as she despairs how all her friends swear by some sort of life-saving practice. “Everybody’s hooked on something…/Some kind of saviour to say your so unique/ A new mantra every other week”. It is as if Pruitt is laying out her problem before tackling it. A more urgent power-pop tempo drives ‘White Lies, White Jesus And You’ as Pruitt firmly rejects any form of religion as the answer.

‘Self-Sabotage’ is a plea for help. Pruitt’s soaring vocals lay bare her sheer wretchedness. It is deeply personal and you can almost feel how her rumination wears her down, “I don’t know how to let somebody know/ I try to scream but fear has got me by the throat”. Answers do not lie in the past as ‘Jealous Of The Boys’ testifies. A gentle muse to an acoustic guitar with background keys that sound as if they are jogging her memory of being in high school where, “I would have a different body/ If only God gave me the choice/ But I’ve always been jealous of the boys”. Similarly reflective ‘Blood Related’ tells of a home life no happier than school. Love did come but as in ‘Naive Again’, only fleetingly.

‘Worst Case Scenario’ opens menacingly both sonically and lyrically but after accepting, “what’s the worst that can happen?” Pruitt embraces mantra as a source of support. ‘Phases Of The Moon’ is like opening the curtains after a stormy night to reveal a bright sunny morning. At last there is hope, even if it is tentative. The light pop vibe eases the tension built up throughout this record.

‘Standstill’, an ethereal message to self, says this journey will not be easy and there will always be a temptation to stop. But, where Pruitt might previously have used this to self-criticise now she is quite happy to admit, “It’s okay to stand still/ You don’t have to gain the world to say that you’re fulfilled”.

Like the yogic practice frequently associated with the chanting of mantras, this album is a journey. The gritty rock to which she spews out her self-loathing is powerful but perhaps more so is the quiet reflection that lies behind her rehabilitation. As with any mantra, this record is best repeated.



About Lyndon Bolton 140 Articles
Writing about americana, country, blues, folk and all stops in between
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