KATHLEEN HEALY – Embracing The Journey (own label)

Embracing The JourneyA singer-songwriter from Cape Cod, following a gap of some five years, Embracing The Journey is her second album and, as the title suggests, is very much about dealing with life and all that comes your way along the path.

She has a slightly warbly, slightly twangy folksy voice that sits well with the largely simple acoustic arrangements, case in point being album opener ‘Two To Tango’ on which, accompanied by guitar and mandolin, she sings about misplaced blame declaring “I was not cut out to be the damsel in distress” and being “all alone out in the woods but far from helpless”, delivering the strikingly memorable line “You bring the wound I’ll bring the salt”.

That simple, plaintive sound continues on ‘Enough’ introducing piano and pedal steel on a song she describes as about a woman losing her battle with addiction, though it actually seems more about being in a relationship where you’re not valued (“no matter what I do it’s not enough for you/Never seems to be anything left for me”) and a concomitant lack of self-worth (“Deep down I don’t believe that I’m enough”).

Things get a little more musically muscular with the arrival of electric guitar on ‘More’, a number about salvational love (“when things fell apart/You stuck around, held onto my heart… And you love me, more than I thought I could be”), but then it’s back to folksier shades on the mandolin and piano coloured ‘Speaking Out’, a #MeToo anthem (“No means no you can’t have it your way”) with a collective voice that proclaims “I am not a piece of property/To be mistreated so recklessly/Keep your filthy hands off of me”.

It’s a rare touch of the political in a predominantly personal framework though she does also bring social comment to bear on ‘Small Things’, a duet with Mark Erelli on a mandolin-backed crowd singalong about coming together to bring change because “we can do small things, with great love”.

Life and love generally account for the other tracks here, the choppy, handclappy, guitar twanging ‘Keep Comin’ Back’, the violin, pedal steel and piano arrangement of Vagabond drawing on butterflies for its lyrics about restlessness and the fragility of life, the frisky ‘Slip Away’ with its similar reflection on how quickly time passes, and the drum-anchored longing for home returning emigre balladry of the Irish-tinted ‘Over the Ocean’.

Two numbers particularly stand out for different reasons. The first is the five-minute ‘Old Man Winter’ which is the most musically atmospheric track that pairs pedal steel and resonant guitar in a bluesy lament about the change of the seasons, though if you want to read it more metaphorically that works too. The other is the airy guitar and mandolin ‘Gifts From My Mother’, a simple but lovely waltzing tribute to mothers everywhere, always there with “some choice words of wisdom… a spare Kleenex tucked up in her sleeve…or whatever you need”.

She closes with another upbeat love song, ‘House of Love’, this time, however, to her favourite venue, recounting the history of O’Shea’s Olde Inne in West Dennis, MA, and its walls full of music “where folks can come to play, or sit and listen to the session”. You might not be able to get there, but by putting this in your player Healy will bring the music home.

Mike Davies

Artist’s website: www.kathleenhealy.com

‘Small Things’ – live:

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