Sometimes, a record just sneaks up on you. It doesn’t come with any hype whatsoever, is plainly if prettily packaged, and seems to fall squarely into that most over-crowded of genres, the sensitive female singer-songwriter.
Yet Kate Walsh’s second album has a surprisingly addictive quality about it that belies its quiet and fragile sound. It’s a quality that an awful lot of people have taken to their heart as it’s currently outselling Take That at the top of iTunes’ download chart.
Inevitably in these days, MySpace has played a part, but Walsh is the antithesis of hipper-than-thou LDN scenesters. Tim’s House (named, rather sweetly, after producer Tim Bidwell’s abode where the album was recorded) is rather old-fashioned, being full of pretty acoustic numbers that the likes of Joni Mitchell would be proud of.
There’s a vocal similarity to Ms Mitchell as well, although her voice most uncannily resemblances that of Gemma Hayes. There’s a touch of KT Tunstall in there too (in fact, she makes a pretty good KT lookalike if the album sleeve is anything to go by), although the songs here are so strong that her own personality is winningly stamped over the whole album.
It may not be anything revolutionary, but the secret to Tim’s House success is the emotional connection with its audience. There can’t be a soul alive who will fail to identify with Don’t Break My Heart, a poignant tale of meeting up with a former lover, or be moved by the delicate string arrangements on album stand-out Betty.
The setting of the songs may be low-key, but it works marvellously. Walsh’s voice is so strong that it can just be accompanied by an acoustic guitar and it sends goosebumps up and down your spine. Other instruments are brought in subtly, such as the accordion on the lovely, shuffling French Song, a wistful tale of unrequited love which skips along with a slightly sad tinge to it.
Then there’s the utterly beautiful Your Song (not related to the Elton John song), filled with so much yearning that it’s a wonder Walsh managed to sing the lyrics without her voice quivering. She even manages to make the idea of staying in on November 5th and looking after the dogs sound like the saddest thing on earth, on the closing Fireworks.
Kate Walsh’s story is more proof that the big record companies should start being very afraid. After a bad experience with Kitchenware Records, Walsh opted to release Tim’s House on her own label, and it looks like it’s going to make her a huge star. Deservedly so – this is a very special album from a very special talent.