Although Grammer released six albums with the late Dave Carter and a previous solo outing in 2006, this is the first on which she’s both singer and songwriter. Working with longtime guitar accompanist Jim Henry (who co-produced), drummer Lorne Entess, Paul Kochanski on bass and Chris Haynes providing keys and accordion, it offers a personal exploration of love and loss.
It opens with the thumping kick drum beat of ‘Hole’, a candid confession of not being very successful at this love thing with its lines about “shatterlings on the bedroom floor” and how the boys “run through the hole in the palm of my love”. Indeed, romantic disappointment rears its head again on the folksier ‘Daffodil Days’ featuring Grammar on violin and viola, on which the metaphorical flowers wither into “sad yellow mouths” and the garden dries up, and the moodier, glockenspiel-coloured ‘Were You Ever Here’ where “we are always here but you’re never home”.
Things are no sunnier on the r&b shaded ‘Mercy’ with Haynes keys to the fore and Henry on eBow where she’s singing about being too chicken to take the leap because she’s known how “it all falls down, down, down”, sentenced to doom by “the big black gavel judge” in your head.
It’s not all so gloom-ridden. The simply arranged, violin laced gambling-themed ‘Forty-Niner’ acknowledges “fortune is a fickle mistress” but you can still end up with a hundred bucks in your pocket, while folk country, mandolin backed album closer ‘Free’ recounts her journey beyond grief to accept “whatever comes will be okay” and the easy rolling country of “Good Life” is sung in the voice of her late father looking back on his life, with all its regrets, dreams, mistakes, lessons and joys, and deciding it was worth the ride.
Of course, not all determination to make the most of things are necessarily positive, as evidenced by ‘The Mark’, a southern bluesy rock number co-penned with Henry and Kate Cell that has Cain declaring his intention to reap seeds sown because there’s “no world to come” and “heaven’s right here”.
The first of the remaining two tracks has her revisiting the title number of her 2004 solo debut EP release, ‘The Verdant Mile’, a eulogy for Carter and her first songwriting credit, here given a punchier arrangement that eschews the original’s uptempo acoustic strum for a slightly moodier approach with glockenspiel, a persistent drumbeat and a vocal delivery reminiscent of Gretchen Peters. The other, which follows directly on, is a cover of a classic song by one of her major influences, a strings-enrobed version of Kate Bush’s gloriously optimistic and uplifting ‘Cloudbursting’, a number chosen, one assumes, to underscore her breaking free of grief and self-doubt. Ignore the ebbing associations of the album title, far from beached, this finds Grammer in full flow.
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‘Hole’ – live: