THIS IS THE KIT – Careful Of Your Keepers (Rough Trade)

Careful Of Your KeepersThis Is The Kit’s new album, Careful Of Your Keepers, asks (and while Hamlet’s dilemma is admittedly both a bit more literary and tragic) the very modern query: “To be folk music, or not to be folk, that is the question” — with or without a nod to the finger-in-your-ear traditional purity.

Odd: (the great) Richard Thompson still gets filed under both “folk” and “rock” in my local stores.

Odd (again): Runrig is always in the folk section.  

Thankfully, Joni Mitchell, of ‘Both Sides Now’ folkie fame, loved Mingus enough to play an album of Higuera homage.

And Pete Seeger had “a hammer”, and Bruce Cockburn had “a rocket launcher”.

So, yeah, This Is The Kit (aka Kate Stables) bends musical time and genre with seductively infectious melodies, and like Mr. Peabody and his Wayback Machine (of Rocky And Bullwinkle fame!) travels to the warm 70’s climate when a band like The Pentangle, or solo artists like John Martyn, Bert Jansch, Kevin Ayers, Tim Buckley, and Bridget St. John juggled genres with liberal arts laissez-faire concern, with big record company eager nonchalance. Such were the times! And, that’s the wonderful deal with this album, as it follows in the 70’s quest that broke genre barriers and allowed the acoustic guitar and voice to explore the universal mysteries as found in the intricate notation of an idiosyncratic folky mystical introspective song.

As my friend, Kilda Defnut, says, “We buy records like this to tell us that life is an always spinning journey with really cool vibrations”.

The entire album dances with cascading waterfall thoughts. The first song, ‘Goodbye Bite’, struts with melodic geometric beauty. The song pumps with a nice jazzy horn touch. The same is true for ‘Inside Outside’ as it floats in a melody that does, indeed, still “Bless The Weather”. Big complement, there! And then, ‘Take You To Sleep’ carves a ploughman’s banjo furrow, with more horn halo. So, thank you, Pete Judge (flugelhorn), Taz Mains (bassoon), Lorenzo Prati (tenor sax), and Sam Hayfield (trombone). It’s nice to know that, somewhere in our universe, straw still gets spun into gold.

Then, ‘More Change’ sparkles with turbulent bass juxtaposed to a dancing melodic piano, with more of a Joni Mitchell vibe. Nice!

But the chamber horn ensemble returns with jazz colour. ‘This Is When The Sky Gets Big’ bubbles and bounces with Rozi Leyden’s bass, while the sax slithers a sinister undercurrent, and Kate Stable’s voice spins a circular spiritual matrix with even more of that melodic infectious seduction. And (the wonderfully titled) ‘Scabby Head And Legs’ circulates with an acoustic and electric guitar, an elastic violin, peppered percussion (Thank you, Jamie Whitby-Coles!), and there may well be a kora somewhere in the tune.

And the title track, ‘Careful Of Your Keepers’, circulates with the warm blood of specially brewed folk musicians who care about the music found within the “solid air” that, somehow, still “was born to love magic”.

Then, ‘Doomed Or More Doomed’, journeys into an acoustic folk music labyrinth, which oozes with uncertainty, as the traditional ‘Lord Randal’ question-answer motif ends with the nebulous assertion, “There’s no answer when both things are true”. Indeed, straw can be gold, and gold can be straw. And Richard Thompson, Runrig, Pete Seeger, Joni Mitchell, and Bruce Cockburn can simply create great music, with or without that (before-mentioned) nod to finger-in-your-ear traditional purity.

That said, the jazzy breeze continues with ‘Stuck In A Room’, as those chamber horns ride a crescent moon over the tune. Now, while Kate Stables may be “stuck in a room”, she is in the good company of Vashti Bunyan, Karine Polwart, Laura Marling, Judee Sill, Marissa Nadler, and Cate Le Bon. And, to get all literary, the stark lyrical content that suggests, “Growing potatoes in the corner of the fluff”, conjures the oblique poetry of Emily Dickinson, where words and melodies conjure “a certain slant of light”, destined forever – “For the discerning eye”.

The final song, ‘Dibs’, quells the quick pulse and sings with a big, warm, and ghostly heart that simply evokes the folky prayer, “Be okay” (from which our dear “To be, or not to be” Hamlet would have surely benefited!), and is a pretty great votive candle thought in a world where, as my friend, Kilda Defnut, said, “Life is an always spinning journey with really cool vibrations”.

Bill Golembeski

Artist’s website:

‘More Change’ – official video: