Shirley Hurt “Shirley Hurt”

Melodic Records, 2023

Bold, unconventional and highly individualistic debut from Toronto-based songwriter.

Shirley Hurt is the non de plume of Toronto-based Sophia Ruby Katz. Her eponymous debut album has an experimental feel to things; think indie-folk woven around a highly emotive vocal that rises and falls in tone and pitch as her mood dictates.

The album’s opening track is an oddity in itself. ‘The Bells’ is an early window into the vision of the artist. An eerily quiet opening vocal with a minimal, almost funereal accompaniment that threatens but never really succeeds in breaking into something more conventional. Subsequent tracks are less startling and obviously arresting in their immediacy; they have a more rhythmic feel to them in the main but that opener reveals a bold artist at work, a feeling that persists throughout the album.

Problem Child’ and ‘Let Me Down Easy’ are moves towards a more conventional singer/songwriter feel, mid-tempo numbers easy on the ear that surprise after the opening track but even here Hurt plays with changes in tone and vocal pitch. Like her vocals, the musical accompaniment veers at times from seemingly routine into something more surprising. Hurt isn’t afraid to insert pauses into the songs, interludes that often prelude those shifts in musical tone. It keeps the listener guessing, almost as though the artist sometimes feels herself drifting into a conventionality she is not comfortable with.

Although now based in Toronto Hurt’s inspiration for the album came from a 6-month trailer trip around Canada and the USA with friend and musical collaborator Harrison Forman. Hurt stresses that the songs are not consciously autographical, not based on relationships or personal history, arising instead from somewhere less tangible or defined, ideas picked up from the randomness and routines of everyday life.

Shirley Hurt’s debut album is not one to be picked up and loved after one play. Nor is it one to be similarly discarded after an initial listen. It is a hard to define album but one gets the impression that is exactly what Hurt was aiming for when she entered the studio. The songs are like Hurt’s voice, shifting patterns that ebb and flow, subtle nuances that expose themselves the more they are heard. It is a bold piece of work, one that rewards the attentive and open-minded.


About Peter Churchill 178 Articles
Lover of intelligent singer-songwriters; a little bit country; a little bit folk; a little bit Americana. Devotee of the 'small is beautiful' school of thought when it comes to music venues.
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