Having been quiet for some time, Kate Ellis spent the back end of 2021 pepperng us with a batch of excellent singles that set the expectations high for the release of her second album "Spirals". The singles which magnificently front load this album were as brilliant as they were different. the one thing that they did herald was that this album was going to be bigger than than its predecessor, with a wider range of instrumentation and with Kate taking on a wider spectrum of subjects
The cover shows Kate strikingly standing proud like the figurehead of a ship in front a cliff face, while the inside cover shows her walking in the sea, the water beautifully bathed in sunshine and Kate being the epicentre around which everything ripples out. The back cover seems to catch her in a manic delight her hair flailing about as she shakes her head wildly.
The opening track "Can't Not" is a useful sound stepping stone from "Carve Me Out", the opening acoustic guitar could easily have nestled on that album, however as the sound opens out to include CJ HIllman's guitar and with the arrival of strings, her whole musical palette seems to be much bigger. The lyrical opening is in some ways ominous and threatening
"Dark skies - the crow flies
Never too far away
The lights gone and the wrong song
Playing over again"
The ( I "Can't Not" Love You) to give the songs title it's full context, finds the thought as impossible as making
"the wild winds blow" or "the seasons slow" even though the relationship is all but over leaving the narrator hopelessly trapped.
The frustration is palpably visible
"Say you never see my eyes - tell me that you never break down and cry
Show me when you find the way, to put all this away, and call it a day!"
However it is met with "You tell you're happy and I could be happy too" and so the status quo remains.
"Blackbirds & Rye" pays a nod soundwise to the Emerald Isle, the fiddle and exceptionally inventive brush percussion naturally evoking those feelings the moment that you hear them. Lyrically the song is a message to Kate's daughter, and is one that a lot of parents must be facing now. although the song predates the current global issues, the fears and concerns addressed are the same only greater, the world has probably never seemed a scarier place.
The message Kate passes is almost one of tough love, there will be times when things don't right and there will be many Mr Wrongs before finding a Mr Right but each of those wrong turns will make you who you will eventually become.
There's a slight almost imperceptible acceptance in the delivery of the next couple of lines of one who has been there and has the scars.
"Build a world and the cracks show up everywhere
Fall in love and you find out they never cared
How much worse if you gave up and never dared to love"
Musically it is uplifting and reassuring, perfectly accompanying the sentiments of the song summed up in the later lines
"You will have your day to shine
Trust me now, It's too hard to live when really you're just scared to die."
On this record Kate undoubtedly has had time for self analysis and she ponders not only on her own place in the world but on those around her and indeed on the world itself. Whereas "Bluebirds & Rye" looks at the next generation, "Another Way" finds Kate looking backwards, loosely looking at her fathers story and the effects his life had on her. It really is writing on another level. pushing the limits of what can be squeezed into a four minute tune.It spans generations and examines how your childhood can reflect on how you will be as a parent and if its more than just blood that gets passed down the family line.
The lyrics open with Kate's father in his infancy, and it is quite unflinching
"The little boy he was loved but not quite good enough" where "his father touch was a little rough". It is undoubtedly a a hard upbringing which Kate is able to evoke brilliantly saying a lot within remarkably few words
"Fathers angry words playing on repeat, he never looked to deep inside for fear of what he'd see
and as soon as he'd get home he'd want to run away".
The years pass, though the enduring emotional damage remains, perfectly encapsulated by the lines
"He keeps his Southern whiskey and his bitterness on ice
and he railed at the injustice every day"
It follows through his life into his relationships where although finding someone who loves him for what he is, he still considers himself to be "poorly made"
Each verse inextricably leads us back to the title of the song reinforcing the point much as it did on "Ones You Love The Most" on the previous album, while the chorus sees Kate sympathising with but not wanting to perpetuate his issues.
"I don't want to see, everything you see, even though your darkness stays a little piece of me
But now I know why you'd always turn away - despite trying every day, you couldn't see another way"
This song comes with a much more pronounced keyboard sound, both piano and organ and there is a lovely string section that joins half way through while the backing vocals throughout add a certain smoothness to the proceedings
"Wonderland" finds Kate pleading for the world and her depth of feeling and frustration is obvious from the opening lines
"My hearts aching
Every inch of me is shaking
To see the beauty that we are breaking
Those opening lines come with the gentlest of backing, a mandolin, some guitar and keyboards giving no hint of the explosion of sound that awaits it - "Wonderland" builds a marvelous anthemic soundscape that just explodes around your ears. Kate paints a grim vision of "Fields turned to dust", "we're all going up in smoke" and tries to highlight that this planet we live on is a "Wonderland". Undoubtedly as stirring a tune as Kate has ever fronted - each time as it builds to the chorus it has the purposeful swagger and power akin to Dylan on