Kathleen Grace with Larry Goldings
Tie Me to You
The last time this writer heard the superb and sultry vocalist Kathleen Grace was on her last recording, 2013’s No Place to Fall, which was essentially an Americana recording imbued by the likes of Greg Leisz’s pedal steel, Dave Raven’s drums, and plenty of electric guitars. It was clear then that her sensibilities were closer to jazz; she even did “Mood Indigo” for example. Yet, that outing, though quite good in its way, can’t prepare one for this intimate pairing with twice Grammy nominated Larry Goldings, Tie Me to You. This is simply, one of the most devastatingly beautiful vocal performances, duet performances for that matter, that you’ll ever hear. Depending on mood, you may shed some tears or, you may find yourself spiritually uplifted. You may even feel several other emotions that lie in between due to her emotive delivery and impeccable phrasing.
Like its predecessor, the album was produced by Grammy-winning engineer Sheldon Gomberg who clearly reads Grace well, and although the term “duet” was mentioned, as it is a showcase for the talents of both Grace and Goldings, they do get some help. Players include bassist David Piltch (kd lang, Bonnie Raitt, John Legend), Grammy-winning violinist Gabe Witcher (Punch Brothers, I See Hawks in L.A.), and jazz bassist Darek Oleszkiewicz (Brad Mehldau, Pat Metheny, Charles Lloyd).
As Grace describes it, the album naturally came together as her life was falling apart and then rebirthing. Yes, it’s a breakup album, a portrait of a mourning woman who knew she had to end her relationship. She began a new relationship but discovered much about herself in the process. So, unlike the last album she went for a spare, deeply intimate sound to express her vulnerability, her way of asking us to be sensitive as well. She reached out to Larry Goldings, telling him that he was the only person she wanted to make this record with. Grace is conveys a heightened sense of self through a remarkable selection of songs, both originals from she and Goldings and carefully curated covers.
First impression is Grace’s lovely, indelibly memorable, almost operatic voice from the opening title track. Then it’s impossible not to notice how clever Goldings is with piano, organ, pocket pianos and even glockenspiel throughout. The beauty of Goldings playing is his economy – playing just the right notes rather than clustering many of them. The telepathy between the two is even more impressive when learning that the album was done without any rehearsals and many tracks were cut in just one take. True to her style, Grace mixes in pop, folk, and blues yet makes some of these familiar songs almost unrecognizable via her interpretations. We have re-imaginings of Cole Porter’s “Love for Sale,” Irving Berlin’s “What I’ll Do,” a swinging Rodgers and Hart “Where or When,” The Beatles’ “I’ll Follow the Sun” (with its curious abrupt ending), the channeling of Chet Baker in “the Thrill is Gone,” and the most surprising of all, Son House’s “John the Revelator.” All these songs are personal to Grace, who delivers them accordingly. Her originals, the title track and “Everywhere” are evocative too, fitting it nicely with the chosen covers.
The first time through it will be the deep emotion that strikes you. You’ll come back and before long you’ll find hope here too. This is a special recording, stunning in so many ways.
- Jim Hynes