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Kate Walsh – The Real Thing

on December 30, 2011, 8:00am

A new Kate Walsh album is likely to break the mold of her previous work, and this one, her fifth in a career spanning 10 years, is no exception. “No overdubs, no gimmicks, just the real thing” it says on the sleeve, the latest twist from Walsh. The 10 songs in this collection were recorded live in the studio in a single take. All you hear is Walsh: the voice, her guitar or piano accompaniments, and occasionally some cello from her long-standing stage collaborator, Jocasta Whippy.

Does it work? Well, yes, as a counter to the inflated, Auto-Tuned efforts of many of her peers, this is communication stripped to its barest. Her words are delivered with a quiet passion and you hear every syllable. There’s a simplicity to Walsh’s work that should never be mistaken for naivety. The title track says it all: “You know it’s real if you can feel your heart.” Bathed in a lush melody, Walsh gives rein to some melismatic Joni Mitchell moments in a song that shows a welcome optimism compared to much of her past work. There remains a reflective mood to the record, hinting that the singer recalls love lost as much that found, yet tender love songs like “The Real Thing” and “You Are Home” show Walsh can write equally from a happy place. Indeed, the hope of enduring love has rarely been more tenderly put than in “He Is A Bird”.

From the sweeping melodrama of “The Dark Knight” to the glowing imagery of “The Baker”, the latter heightened by Whippy’s sympathetic cello, Kate Walsh puts words to music seamlessly. Things reach a fitting conclusion in “Snow”, a perfect song for Christmas. At this time of the year, sentimentality is forgivable and in any case redeemed by the eloquent refrain, “Our love is like snow/It covers all we know.” Kate Walsh has a great command of song structure. Her bridges and middle eights are always a delight, while her delicate vocal constantly purrs. What The Real Thing lacks in variation of mood, it scores in intimacy. You listen to music in precisely the manner it’s meant to be heard.

Essential Tracks: “The Real Thing”, “The Wolves”, “The Baker”, and “Snow”.