Bristol County Tides
A Pandora’s Box of Americana Introspective and Imagination.
I forget when I first encountered Annie Keating; perhaps at a gig or most likely via the album FOR KEEPS that I reviewed for Maverick Magazine; but it’s fair to say she has accompanied me on many of my darker moments over the last few years …… and she didn’t even know it.
Music touches people in a million different ways of course; and while you’d not think of Ms Keating as a purveyor of ‘sad songs’ (she isn’t) but she can not just tell but sell a ‘sad song’ and make it sound ever so personal to the person on the other end of radio tubes.
Here; the opening track Third Street took me by surprise the first time I heard it as it’s a lot ‘heavier’ than I’d expected …… in a damn good way too; as the Bass pushes down on your chest as the swirling electric piano sounds like the wheels are coming off and then, on top of that, Annie spits out her weary tale with a squint in her eyes …… I can only dream that one day you will idly be driving along in your car and this comes on the radio!
Like most every singer-songwriter these days; Annie used the claustrophobic time enforced on her and her family during the recent Pandemic to write …… and write she has; as this album has 15 tracks on it; and not a single note or word should be edited out.
While tucked away in the family home Annie has been forced to delve deep into her imagination; and once that Pandora’s Box was opened the likes of High Tide, Marigold, Shades of Blue and the enigmatically titled Bittersweet sound like they must have poured out in the middle of the night and into the daybreak with only coffee as a friend.
There’s a clever mix of light and shade across these songs; with many coming from Annie and her Band; but then of course she decides to dip back into solo singer-songwriter mode for the brittle and bewitching Song For a Friend and Half Mast too.
While Annie has always been a sharp and canny songwriter; there’s a feeling of maturity and even sageness that comes with ageing across this album; and which makes choosing a singular Favourite Song excruciatingly difficult …… but that also meant I had to play it an extra couple of times to help decide; which was no hardship whatsoever.
Eventually I’ve narrowed it down to three very different tracks; Track #2 Kindred Spirit sounds like the type of song Lucinda has been trying to write this last 15 years or so; and the cracked world of the love lorn is a lot better place for Annie actually doing so; here’s the opening verse …….:
“There’s a Grace in the way you walk/a lazy kind of way you talk
I like the way my name rolls off your tongue
There’s a sadness about where you’ve been/I feel it coming off your skin
A look behind your eyes like you’ve been stung.“
The metaphoric Lucky 13 on the other hand, opens with a beautiful guitar solo; and eventually Annie slurring the chorus will make you clench your teeth and hope for a happy/happier ending;
“Slot machines, Kings and Queens / I’m betting on Lucky 13
Just what you like/a little thrill ride/ losing inhibitions by midnight.”
will she have the happy ending she craves?
Only keen eared listeners will ever know.
Tucked away in the middle is the charming Doris; a gorgeous introspective tale of a strong woman who arrived in America circa 1959, drinks Johnnie Walker red – straight, smoked a Dunhill pipe, and is now 83 and getting younger every day. Doris just happens to be Annie’s Mother btw. Americana/Folk Music at its very best methinks.
Then’ of course there is the slow and seedy Hank’s Saloon …….. imagine, if you will Bruce and Lucinda being locked in a Motel room with no air con and not being allowed out until they had written a bonafide Hit Country Song for George Jones …… then it might sound a bit like this.
Not an easy choice; but Hell ……. Hank’s Saloon has to be my Favourite …… it’s cooler than a penguins bum!
After 7 previous albums it’s probably unfair of my to still compare Annie Keating to anyone else; but I feel that’s the best way I can to explain the high quality of not just the songwriting here; but the consummate light and shade in the way Annie has constructed and helped produce these songs ………. there’s a lot to appreciate here; but most of all BRISTOL COUNTY TIDES is an album from an artist at the top of her game and something you can allow yourself to settle back and just wallow in.
Released May 7th 2021
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RELEASED UK May 7th 2021
RELEASED US June 4th 2021