Album Reviews

Kristin Hersh – Sunny Border Blue

UK release date: 12 March 2001

Kristin Hersh - Sunny Border BlueKristin Hersh, of Throwing Muses almost-fame, offers a quite sublime album called Sunny Border Blue. Every music lover should own a copy. What? Unqualified praise? Well… yes. Why find fault with the faultless.

Despite a lack of an obvious, conventional radio single, Spain is a riot and Your Dirty Answer is addictive from the first listen. With densely arranged instrumentation, Sunny Border Blue is a leap, a hop and a skip up in development than Hersh’s earlier, stripped-back albums.

Hersh plays all the instruments on this album, these ranging from acoustic guitar through percussion and drums to bass and keyboards, the latter laid on so subtlely as to be scarcely detectable, but without their inclusion the album would be the poorer. She sings all the songs and she wrote twelve from thirteen of these; here and there she husks like Stevie Nicks, then she goes all Alanis-like shrill, all the while effortlessly hitting any note she fancies with ease.

She sings about everyday themes, principally conflicting feelings about men, but the lyrical imagery is as evocative as the music. From waking up next to a man and feeling myriad emotions – “Shining and yawning/ you were nice but twisted/ This lame old story/ We were a match made in puragtory” – (White Suckers) – to self-loathing while in a drunken or drugged stupour (Flipside), she resolutely refuses to judge others. “I don’t judge people/ I just watch them ’til it’s time to look away/ I want to look away now” (Your Dirty Answer). Not once does the beat suffer. Perfect.

Trouble is the only track Hersh did not write – Cat Stephens is the man to thank for that one. But as Silica sounds like it was inspired by Cat Stephens, this is definitely not a bad thing. Even the production of this album – also by Hersh – offers ingenuity combined with hooks aplenty on which to hang grunge-based riffs and whole songs, most obviously on 37 Hours. And listen to Summer Salt while reading the lyrics: “I don’t have to talk/ But when I do and this is true/ There’s nothing I won’t say.” However opaque it is, it’s never a waste of time listening.

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More on Kristin Hersh
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Kristin Hersh: “I’m not sure that musicians should be making a lot of money” – Interview
Kristin Hersh @ Queen Elizabeth Hall, London