Kate Green has hidden her musical light under a bushel for a while. Her first record, An Unkindness Of Ravens, was released in 2007 and A Dark Carnival is only her second album. If you haven’t heard Kate yet, and that’s unlikely unless you live in the region of South Yorkshire, you really should and, yes, I’m as guilty as anyone. But what a voice! And what a breadth of imagination and musical influences. Among her cast of supporters are producer Jed Grimes, Patrick Walker, Raymond Greenoaken and Michael Doonan with Neil Harland and Paul Smith providing the engine-room. And what a job they do.
A Dark Carnival gives us a remarkable selection of songs, both traditional and modern, and Kate treats them with evenhandedness, giving each one the arrangement it merits. So the fact that the set opens with the old murder ballad, ‘Lady Diamond’, and is followed by Memphis Minnie’s ‘When The Levee Breaks’ seems perfectly reasonable. The former boasts a jangly, percussive arrangement which builds towards the bloody climax and Kate just roars into the latter. Once you have accepted that you’re ready for the first of Kate’s own songs, ‘Renegades (Of Love And Rage)’, written as a tribute to Extinction Rebellion. At the first listen I felt that I’d known it forever and that’s a special skill in any songwriter’s armoury.
Next? You may well ask. Robert Burns’ ‘Banks And Braes’ sung, says Kate, “simply because it is so beautiful” is followed by a mighty version of ‘Bows Of London’ which kicks any other folk-rock version into the long grass and, believe me, this band can rock. ‘Ferodo Bridges’ harks back to Kate’s childhood and will be familiar to any Glaswegian and its cheerful nostalgia contrasts with Lal Waterson’s mysterious ‘Fine Horseman’. ‘Maddy’s Leaving’ strikes a blow for womankind with an upbeat arrangement that doesn’t take shit from anybody.
‘Cuckoo Song’ comes from the Kipling/Bellamy songwriting team and sung a cappella and it may be heresy to say that I prefer this version to Peter’s. Two Green originals follow: ‘Mi Amigo’ recounts the crash of an American bomber in Sheffield in 1944 and is celebrated with a big, almost orchestral, accompaniment and ‘Reclaim The Light’ is a portentous song, again with a multi-tracked Kate, demanding change before it’s too late.
Finally, ‘Shallow Brown’ adds some spirit to what can be a rather lugubrious shanty. You couldn’t work to this but what the heck, it’s a glorious end to a glorious album.
Artist’s website: www.kategreenmusic.com
‘Banks And Braes’ – live with Patrick Walker. Not the best quality but find us something better, please: