Kara Grainger – Living With Your Ghost
12 songs – 50 minutes
Australian singer-guitarist-songwriter, Kara Grainger, has been based in the USA for nearly a decade now, releasing two albums to add to her 2008 debut recording in Australia, Grand And Green River. Her latest release, Living With Your Ghost, was recorded at Wire Studios in Austin, Texas with co-producer, Anders Osborne (who also contributed guitar and vocals) and engineer Stuart Sullivan, together with a high calibre backing band including Ivan Neville on keys, The Texas Horns (Kaz Kazanoff, John Mills and Al Gomez), Mark Rudin and George Stanford on trumpet and trombone respectively, J.J. Johnson on drums and Dave Monsey on bass.
Living With Your Ghost is an entertaining album of Americana, blending folk, rock and blues with the merest hint of country and soul into an enticing gumbo. The album opens with the title track, an upbeat rock number that recalls Sheryl Crow or even Pat Benatar until the glorious, uplifting slide guitar solo elevates the song onto a different plane. The Led Zep-esque funky blues-rock of “Working My Way Back House” (with nice driving drums from Johnson) follows more slide guitar, both in the main verse riff as well as the solo.
“Man With Soul” has echoes of Paul Rodgers while “Nowhere To Be Found” opens with acoustic slide guitar before the entire band kicks in and Grainger pulls out another delightful electric slide solo.
The band is top class throughout. When the chorus erupts on the joyous “You’re In New Orleans”, the music certainly puts you there. The Texas Horns add irresistible impetus to the funky “Groove Train”. The Johnson and Monsey rhythm section is rock solid throughout, and especially impressive on the flat-out rock of “Favourite Sin”, the JJ Cale-esque “Love Will Get You Through The Door” and the threatening closing track, “Freedom Song.” And Neville’s keys add delicious flourishes to the likes of “Nowhere To Be Found” and “Reason To My Verse.”
Grainger’s voice is quite some instrument itself: technically formidable but equally comfortable expressing warmth, vulnerability, longing and pain. She also writes smart, well-structured songs. Six tracks on the album are Grainger compositions and five are Grainger co-writes with Trevor Manear, Anders Osborne, Andrew Duhon or Julie King. The sole cover is Jackie Bristow and Mark Punch’s powerful “Broken Record” (interestingly, the 2016 Bristow album that contained that song, Shot Of Gold, looks like it may have served as an inspiration for the cover of Living With Your Ghost).
Any female blues-rock singer who plays slide guitar is going to attract comparisons to Bonnie Raitt and there are similarities between the two artists. Indeed, if you are a Raitt fan, you will definitely want to check out Grainger. But Kara Grainger is very much her own person and Living With Your Ghost is an enticing introduction to what looks to be a major talent.