JACK CARTY AND GUS GARDINER – Hospital Hill (It’s Dinner Recordings/ MGM GLWCD07)

Hospital HllAustralian musicians Jack Carty and Gus Gardiner collaborate to co-write Hospital Hill, which will be released on June 1st. While by and large, I would consider this a somewhat stripped back type of album, for the entirety of the record, Carty’s acoustic guitar and vocal takes are backed by a lush string quartet, featuring his partner in crime, Gus Gardiner on cello.

‘Facing South’ kicks off the album and it’s a strong, melodic opener that starts simply – sparsely even – before gradually building to the introduction of the strings, which quickly become a very familiar sound of this record. Following this number is title track, ‘Hospital Hill’, with its flowing build ups and flourishes, led by the slow, sad drones of the cello.

Indeed, it seems that the strings have two key roles on the album; firstly, and most obviously, their purpose is to enhance and colour Carty’s lyrics; this marriage of sweetness and melancholy is particularly apparent on the likes of ‘Hotel Rooms’ or ‘Apple Tree’ in particular. There are instances in which the melancholic sweetness gives way to a far more menacing tone, echoing some of Carty’s eerie imagery and bleak lyrics; see ‘The Road, A Snake’.

Another purpose of the strings, is that they rejuvenate and breathe new life into works which listeners, already familiar with Carty’s work, may know. Their presence on ‘Kindness is a Dying Art’ for example (originally recorded for 2016’s Home State LP) adds a further dimension to the song.

It is ’Stargazer’, that rounds off the album; with its upbeat tempo and warmer lyrics, in the best possible way, it feels very different from anything else on the rest of the disc, making for a most satisfactory conclusion.

Having been recorded as complete takes, Hospital Hill, retains a nice live feeling to it which isn’t always captured in studio albums. Furthermore, it does feel like a genuine collaboration and where Carty’s vocals tell the album’s stories, as it were, it is the Gardiner-led string section which really steal the show.

Christopher James Sheridan

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Artist’s website: https://www.jackcarty.com/

‘Stargazer’ – official video: