Back To Where It All Started For an Alternative to Traditional Country Music.
Both Mary Karlzen and her label Y&T Records are new to me; but a cursory glance at both of their bios shows they’ve been around a long time; and our paths should have crossed before now.
The interesting part of the relationship is that Mary was one of Miami labels’ Y&T’s first signings in the 1990’s (alongside The Mavericks!) and after Major League success on Atlantic and Dualtone; Mary has returned to home base for this; and hopefully future releases.
I was still looking at the quaint cover as the first song spooled out of the office speakers; and for some reason the two don’t match. I was expecting something akin to a Folk Songstress; but what we get is a good ole Friday Night Honky Tonker ……. with scorching electric guitar and pedal-steel, while Tennessee Three bass n drums align themselves to a velvety, worldly wise set of female vocals purring out a smashing toe-tapper of a heartbreaker on Slowly Disappear.
I knew that I was in for the long haul after four exquisite minutes!
The mood and pace drops quite dramatically on Track #2; One Step Away From Home, but the class still comes across in every purred word and strummed note.
After four ‘listens’ this is one of those rare albums that will sound just as good on your home stereo as they will in the car on a hot n dusty road trip.
Erring on the side of more Traditional Country Music; Try To Find, You Still Belong To Me and Something That I Missed still manage to sound as edgy and Alt. as many of today’s young ladies in their check shirts, tight Levi’s and cowboy boots can only dream of releasing.
On the other hand; and to my ears Mary excels when she slows things down and goes into introspective singer-songwriter mode; with I’ll Be There and the title track Shine having the ability to not just break your heart, but to melt the shattered parts too.
While this is most certainly a ‘Country Album’ in spirit and in deed; Mary Karlzen isn’t afraid to take risks with her songs; which is where The Burgeoning Road and Left Alone come into play; stopping you dead in your tracks, making you listen to the words more carefully than you might have originally intended ….. but, trust me ….. it’s well worth it.
From start to finish SHINE has been a joy and a surprise in equal measures; and selecting an individual Favourite Track has been a difficult choice; although I’ve now narrowed it down to two rather special songs; the Twangtastic and feisty Try To Find, which conjures up memories of me first discovering Bloodshot singers Lydia Loveless and Sarah Shook.
The other is just as raucous and erudite; Dumb Game is the type of song that you will only hear fleetingly on the car radio and then miss the name of the singer; then haunting you until it comes on again a week or mare later and you ssshh everyone so you can hear the singers name; then when you do ……. it’s off to the Record Shop to buy the album; without stopping at Go or collecting $200!!
Although it’s only April and I already have a dozen or so titles in my Top 20 albums of 2021 file; I’m damned sure SHINE by Mary Karlzen will feature in there somewhere come Christmas …… what a find (after all these years).
Released April 9th 2021
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Ltd Edition – first 500 CD’s signed by Mary and include an Art Card too.