Living With Your Ghost
Australian Kara Grainger has graced the international blues and roots circuit for a decade now. Originally hailed as mostly a guitar slinger, for her adept picking and slide skills, Grainger proves to be a formidable singer-songwriter on this, her fourth album. Her sultry vocals combined with her incendiary guitar playing is on full display on the opening title track but as the album unfolds she renders some tender ballads and infectious roots material too.
Around a year ago Grainger headed to Wire studios in Austin TX to make this album, co-produced by Grammy Award winner Anders Osborne whose guitar and vocals are all over the record. The album was engineered by Grammy winner Stuart Sullivan. Suffice it to say, Grainger wasn’t fooling around. Additionally, a top-notch band supports with Ivan Neville on keys, J.J. Johnson on drums, Dave Monsey on bass, as well as the Texas Horns.
Grainger described the music this way, “The music is going to be as diverse as ever. A little bit of blues, folk… some personal introspective songs, some funk and some rock ‘n roll.” Osborne, in turn, had this to say about Grainger, “I love Kara’s voice! She has that rare quality that evokes a distant warm memory and connects you with her personally as well as musically. A fantastic guitar player and beautiful songs! A treat to work with.” Grainger wrote six of the dozen songs herself, four with Osborne, one with Trevor Manear and another, “Broken Record” from another co-writer team.
Thematically Grainger reflects on the past as you may glean from the title track as well as “Nowhere to be Found.” “Working My Way Back Home” talks about love and life on the road as a traveling musician. Even at a relatively young age, Grainger has played almost everywhere, including India, as one of the first blues artists to play that country. Two of the Osborne co-writes have the flavor of home town, NOLA – “You’re in New Orleans” and “Groove Train.”
One of the album’s stinger songs is the John Hiatt like ballad penned by Grainger, “Reason to My Verse.” This kind of tune showcases her wonderful vocals, as she’s backed by keyboards and tasteful guitar. Her penned “Nobody But You” is done at a similar tempo, offering a break between the two rocking collaborations with Osborne, “Favorite Sin” and “Love Will Get You Through the Door.” She concludes with her six minute “Freedom Song,” punctuated by reverberating slide and sustained notes that just seem to linger around her bluesy wail.
Grainger has always been worth the listen for her guitar chops and siren-like voice. This one has some great songs, making it her strongest album yet.
- Jim Hynes
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