First Appeared in The Music Box, February 2008, Volume 15, #2
Written by John Metzger
Tue February 12, 2008, 09:15 AM CST
Kate Makiís On High assumes a commanding presence, not because it is forceful, but rather because it is so subtle. Its contents largely straddle the line between country and folk, though there also are plenty of jazz and blues motifs that drift across their surface. Many songwriters, these days, offer a similar combination of styles, but it is immediately apparent that there is something special about Maki. She delivers her material so delicately that it seems as if, like a dream, it all might evaporate as the morning sun comes streaming through the windowpane. Yet, the emotional fallout that lurks in her heart and mind casts a gray-hued pallor over the proceedings that is inescapable and unshakable.
For several years now, Maki has been receiving accolades in her Canadian homeland, and while On High is her third outing overall, it also serves as her introduction to the American marketplace. Boosting her chances of being heard amidst the din of the crowded indie-folk scene, Maki enlisted the help of Giant Sandís Howe Gelb, who not only produced the set but also provided an assortment of instrumentation to shape the mood of her material. He brings a subtle, unobtrusive touch to Makiís songs by framing her poetic ruminations and engaging melodies with music that shifts from country (Highway) to the blues (White Noise) to a delightfully strange, carnival-esque relocation of The Carter Family to a Western saloon (To Please). Better still, he knows just when to leave her be, doing nothing more than turning on the tape recorder to capture Maki as she accompanies herself with an acoustic guitar on cuts like Wanted Ads and We Are Gone.
It doesnít matter in what setting Maki is placed. She sings her songs in an ethereal whisper that flutters lightly around the nooks and crannies of On Highís understated arrangements. Yet, one gets the sense that her voice is stronger and prettier than she ever allows it to be. At times, it cracks in an aching, weary sigh, and the result is that Maki sounds utterly lost, as if her life is hanging by a fragile thread. Maki is so confident as a performer, though, that itís easy to tell that she isnít really in a dire predicament. Nevertheless, sheís convincing enough that itís clear that she has lived through the emotions that lurk within her heartbroken laments.
On future efforts, Maki may continue to improve upon and refine her style. Or, she simply may slip away as so many indie artists have a tendency to do. Either way, On High not only makes the case that she deserves her brief moment to shine, but it also provides an indication that, regardless of the size of her following, sheíll be pining away in the Canadian woods for a good, long while. Ĺ
Of Further Interest...
1 Star: Pitiful
2 Stars: Listenable
3 Stars: Respectable
4 Stars: Excellent
5 Stars: Can't Live Without It!!
Copyright © 2008 The Music Box