Once A Day

Nick West's reviews for Bucketfull Of Brains and Rock'N'Reel

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Location: London, United Kingdom

Co-editor and publisher of Bucketfull Of Brains since 1996.

Saturday, September 08, 2007

Kathleen Haskard

Don’t Tell

Howlin’ Hound

It’s nearly nine years since London-based, Californian exile, Kathleen Haskard’s previous album Into The Deep. In the intervening period she’s raised some children, tour-managed Chuck Prophet, and sung in the choir on Neil Young’s Living With War.

Now she’s signed up a couple of cool dudes, one the afore-mentioned Mr Prophet, to help produce her second album. The other is sometime Willard Grant Conspirator, sometime Grand Driver, Simon Alpin, whose production pedigree seems to be more enhanced by the week these days.

Recorded in London and San Francisco, mixed in San Fran, and mastered in Memphis, Don’t Tell is a record of rare quality. Haskard’s a smart and aware songwriter, radical both politically and emotionally, but her propaganda favours the latter. While both ‘Like A Pearl Necklace’ and ‘Will Someone Explain’ could be taken as commentary on Iraq they’re nuanced enough to transcend a simple reading.

Prophet adds guitar notably on ‘Second Star’, Alpin brings his lap steel and slide. There’s also Julian Wilson on Hammond and Tom Heyman on pedal steel. Meanwhile Haskard crosses the spectrum of emotions with her earthy but controlled singing. There’s a deep blues underpinning to her voice and a variety of expression. She’s particularly compelling with her sensual Patti Smith-like whisper on tracks like ‘Until It’s Time To Go’.

Best perhaps is ‘Losers Weep’ a co-write with Jack and Stacey Earle. Here she’s just supported by Alpin’s measured, deliberate guitar and Julian Wilson’s shadow vocals, in the exploration of a loss or maybe losses, that seem more poignant in their opaqueness.


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