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Album Review: Kate Walsh – Light & Dark

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    In a world overrun by wannabe pop princesses, Kate Walsh stands her ground and sticks to her principles, resulting in the production of a classic album.

    The young British singer-songwriter has an interesting history by anyone’s standards. Walsh was only 20 when she released her first record, Clocktower Park, on the independent UK label, Kitchenware. Then, unsigned for four years, she recorded and released the follow-up, Tim’s House. The self-released album reached an unlikely No. 1 on iTunes, turning Walsh into a media darling at home. Snapped up by a major and then strangely dropped, she emerges in 2009 with Light & Dark, on her homespun Blueberry Pie label.

    Walsh could have kissed a girl, or stepped into little boots, but she hasn’t. Walsh has little to worry about. She has a genuine point of difference to many of her contemporaries; simply put, she refuses to compromise her music to the whims of fad and fashion. It has a timeless quality, which will allow her music to sound fresh in the years to come. It also helps having a voice to die for, being able to write gloriously moving songs, and making real connections with your audience.

    The new album continues the sparkle of Tim’s House with the singer’s achingly beautiful voice and exquisite melodies, both given more expansive, yet still sensitive treatments by producer, Tim Bidwell. Walsh’s lyrics are heartfelt and precious, delivered with her heart on her sleeve. You might criticize the preponderance of lost loves, but who could fail to be moved by the stripped-bare poignancy of the title song, “Light & Dark”, or marvel at her ability to voice such painful recollections? The overall package is hallmarked with innocence and charm, tempered by the pain of worldly experience.

    This album has real variety and form. The opener “As He Pleases” sets the tone as a gently embellished melody, which ebbs and flows deceptively while Walsh tries to rationalize two sides of a doomed relationship. Then, you find radio-friendly songs like the breezy “Trying” and the country-flavored “June Last Year” alongside plaintiff laments like “Greatest Love”, where she is joined by Olly Knights of Turin Breaks who provides rustic-tinged harmonies. Shafts of light break through the darker reflections so the comforting and intimate warmth of “Seafarer” and the optimism of “Be Mine” can balance the chilling poetic fancy of the sparse “I Cling on for Dear Life”.

    It’s clear Walsh is exorcising past ghosts in many of these songs, yet she manages to sound sweet when bitter, and confuses the territory between good and bad experiences. Her vocal delivery is, at times, astonishing, and in live performances she has developed the rare ability to make an audience fall so silent that the proverbial pin would resonate. She exudes such vulnerability, that as a man you’d like to be her brother as much as her lover. She is unassuming yet enthralling.

    One of the brightest, though not best known stars to have emerged from a plethora of UK singer-songwriters in recent years, Walsh should increase her standing through Light & Dark. It’s an album to love and cherish. Falling in and out of love may be the recurring themes, but the trick still remains in the story telling.

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    Light & Dark Album Review: Kate Walsh   Light & Dark

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