‘CARR, KATY’ ‘COQUETTE’ from Whisperin and Hollerin
– Label: ‘DELUCE RECORDINGS (www.katycarr.com)’
– Genre: ‘Pop’ – Release Date: ‘9th November 2009′
It’s always dangerous to judge a book by the cover, but it must be said that the signals given out by KATY CARR’S first album since 2003’s ‘Passion Play’ could easily sell you a dummy. Encompassing RAF planes, 40s fashions, songs with titles like ‘The White Cliffs’ and ‘The Kommander’s Car’, the mysterious ‘Coquette’ appears to be staking its’ claim as the forces’ new sweetheart. Hell, I know there’s a recession on, but we haven’t broken out the ration books again, have we?
As is often the case, you need to see the bigger picture to understand the imagery rather better. Born of a Polish mother and English father, Katy Carr has an unusual background, made all the more fascinating by her youthful obsession with flight and an RAF scholarship which has not only given her a mastery of the skies but also a true insight into the effect aeroplanes have had in terms of waging war.
Thus, if I sound like I’m rather awkwardly introducing a ‘concept’ album then yes, in a way I am. ‘Coquette’ is after all, peopled with unlikely heroes from the mists of World War II and, as Katy herself attests, it’s the ‘beautiful feminine energy’ of the likes of Gracie Fields, Katherine Hepburn and Ginger Rogers among others that was the starting point for most of the songs making up this long-awaited third album.
However, if you’re expecting the record to sound like a lost Andrews Sisters 78 then you soon need to think again. The first real ’song’ here, ‘Sparkle’ (which displaces the tiny glockenspiel and vocal refrain of ‘Star Song’) is all rolling drums, pinched and jazzy guitar and plucked strings, with Carr’s voice floating in from the school of disembodied ethereality. She actually sounds a little like Beth Gibbons after considerably fewer cigs, but her spectral tones are enormously attractive and while the subject matter may seem anachronistic, the sound itself is state of the art.
Besides, the record’s WWII fixation yields several enormous successes along the way. Buoyed up by clattering beats, accordions, upright bass and tablas, the Marlene Dietrich-influenced ‘Berliner Ring’s Film Noir-ish atmosphere is a fitting tribute to this enduring 20th Century icon. The strident ‘Kommander’s Car’ all percussive guitar and raw bass is a tense and nervous commentary about the courage of four men who successfully escaped the degradation and certain death of Auschwitz against ridiculous odds. ‘The White Cliffs’, meanwhile, isn’t actually a cover of Dame Vera Lynn’s famous wartime standard, but it’s certainly the inspiration behind this clever and affecting waltz-time ballad where love stretches across the miles of a ravaged continent (I’m telling you the one you love is miles away…somewhere in Spain) and absence makes the heart grow forever fonder.
But even when the turmoil of ‘39 and ‘45 doesn’t directly appear to affect the progress of the album, ‘Coquette’ is very stylish and enjoyable indeed. With its elegant, chamber-folk strings and lightness of touch, ‘Orchidophile’ adds up to a modern torch song of real repute. ‘Violetta’s’ sparse bass and accordion backdrop is the perfect framework for Carr to hang her sultry vocal web upon and there’s an almost nursery rhyme innocence to the delightful closing track ‘Sleepyhead’ which ensnares you the moment you clap ears on it.
Katy Carr has a lot going for her. Her sensual vocal delivery and the frisson of sophistication emanating from her best songs gropes towards timelessness. Her ‘Coquette’ is a beguiling beauty who breezes through enemy lines, but believe me you’ll follow her. Hear these siren’s songs and you’ll be smitten.