Vocalist and songwriter Kathleen Grace finally had won me over while singing “I can see it in your eyes” from “The Thrill Is Gone”, the famous Ray Henderson/Lew Brown classic which has become a standard. Her heartfelt, very subtle and vulnerable performance, backed only by pianist Larry Goldings, is one of the highlights of her new set “Tie Me To You”.
Kathleen and Larry recorded the album live in a studio in Silver Lake, often using first takes. Kathleen’s repertoire, including country, folk, jazz, singer/songwriter, alternative, is summed up to maximum effect on this album, consisting of three standards by Cole Porter, Irving Berlin, and Rodgers & Hart, a George Moustaki, a Lennon/McCartney, a traditional, and three originals. Her style, sometimes reminding me of early Norah Jones if you want some comparison at all, especially on higher pitches she conveys on tracks like “Embarcadero” which she wrote with bassist Darek Oleszkiewicz, is truly intimate, beautiful, and sensitive.
It’s always dangerous to cover well-heard standards from the Great American Songbook, but she comes up with a brilliantly haunting, ethereal “Love For Sale”, with the help of piano, bass (David Piltch), and violinist Gabe Witcher who adds a graceful, melancholic touch. The piece conjures up an amazingly thrilling and at the same time brooding atmosphere that puts this epochal Cole Porter classic in a fascinating new light. And the saudade continues: Kathleen’s voice can be crystal-clear and longing on Irving Berlin’s “What’ll I Do” that it’s a joy to listen to, with only Larry’s accompaniment on piano making a nostalgic, but never stale statement. It is brutally in-the-face, honest, and lovely. I didn’t expect the three often-heard standards to be so essential to this set, with the third, Rodgers & Hart’s “Where Or When”, probably the most surprising of the bunch because Larry plays around with various keyboard sounds which add some childlike colors to the composition. The tune comes across as easy, light and naive as it can get, but again conveying a convincing performance.
My favorite (at this moment I might add), is the country/folk-inspired original “Everywhere”, a beautiful, hopeful love song as pure and simple as a drop in morning dew. The violin adds a gorgeous texture. The opening cut and title track, written by Kathleen and Larry, where Larry plays a piano which almost sounds like a harpsichord, is another wonderful example of plaintiveness combined with hope and comfort. And even though the bluesy swamp of the traditional “John The Revelator” is not really my cup of ginger tea, it reveals another, sexy character in Kathleen’s voice which totally fits the ambiance. I would love to hear an entire collection of French chansons from her because she elegantly tiptoes through “Berceuse” just like a song and mood like this demand.
Concluding with “I’ll Follow The Sun” (Lennon/McCartney), this 10-piece set, expertly masterminded by Sheldon Gomberg (Rickie Lee Jones, k.d. lang, Shelby Lynne, Ron Sexsmith), “Tie Me To You” will bravely accompany us here through these trying times.