Album Reviews

KTB – Bluebird

(Tatinga) UK release date: 5 December 2005

Welcome then to the jazz-flecked stylings of KTB (22-year old Katy Bennett). From early songs about elephants and vegetarianism when she was 12, she released her debut in 2002 (All Calm In Dreamland) and has followed it with this, a homemade rural portacabin affair set in deepest Oxfordshire. No obvious songs about trunks, one about meat. Ho hum.

The danger of any young acoustic troubadour-esse is the danger to be forever in the shadow of such luminaries as Joni Mitchell, Rickie Lee Jones, Dory Previn and Suzanne Vega amongst others. Fresher ingenues such as Kathryn Williams, Martha Wainwright and KT Tunstall have already begun to stamp their own personality in the field, but there is a fine line between sensitivity and coming over like a grade-A whinger. Song themes of love, loss, despair and friendship can easily tip over into teen-angst poetry if not tempered by a decent tune or a way with words.

Breezy and introspective often under the mantle of the same song, KTB sings and plays guitar and piano in a country/jazz/folk/oddball pop fashion that is a pleasant in a scented candle and gazing wistfully out the rain-flecked window kind of way. These sparse arrangements are subtly augmented by guitars, bongos, cello, violin and the occasional bass and drum kit and a suitably low-key production that lets the songs breathe through. Unfortunately the slightness of the songs threatens their evaporation into indifference.

Opener Five is a lazy acoustic sway around a tune opining the joys of being five years old and how the following years muddy the waters and add to the confusion. A bright jazzy busk of a tune that is unfortunately the most fully-realised track here. Nearest in flavour to the downbeat folk-isms of Beth Orton, but with a natural charm in its na�ve playfulness.

The following trio of a sole KTB, guitar and voice, on the skeletal and bruised Loved, Bluebird and A Single Tear are reminiscent of the debut by Tracey Thorn (Everything But The Girl) in their simplistic effectiveness.

Fall ups the ante with some fine arrangement passing a sneaking resemblance to Nick Drake in the acoustic sway of guitar against cello, albeit not quite so world-weary, more post-coital in its spiralling peaks and sighs.

On the downsides, Hole In The Road seems to drag its heels moping in a turgid portentous as the plodding backing of piano and drums in a tepid uninspired tune. Red Meat tries to be a jaunty anti-meat song and comes over as twee, tedious and unnecessary. The unfortunately titled Nothing To Say comes true as it sums up the failings of the record in the repeated themes of love and loss sharing the same sleepy delivery and uninspired approach to instrumentation, that make this album merely average than exceptional.

So, there are some flashes of beauty here, in the jazzy turns of her voice and some simple but effective arrangements, amongst the soup of hormones making the album as a whole sound a bit same-y. That said, definitely one to watch when she fully finds her voice.

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KTB – Bluebird

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