Karen Lovely is a Pacific Northwest Blues scene 2010 IBC contestant who placed second. This was followed by three 2011 BMA nominations after her second release and then her third (produced by Tony Braunagel) garnered her a BMA and a Blues Blast award nomination. This is Karen’s 4th studio album and it features her musical associates of Rick Holmstrom or Doug Pettibone on guitar, Taras Prodanuik on bass and Matt Tecu on drums. A host of others add support on a variety of instruments to good measure. All tracks are originals.
The title tracks gets things rolling. It’s a gritty, slower tempo-ed piece with a cool vibe. Lovely growls and the guitar responds in similar fashion. “Under the MidNight Sun” has a slow to mid tempo groove with some horns (baritone sax gets nice and throaty) in there and some Wurlitzer. Lovely and guitar spar a bit in this pretty little piece.
“Twist My Fate” is straight up Chicago blues in a Willie Dixon style. Slow blues, greased up and cookin’ slow and fine! A little harmonica is in the mix here along with a stinging guitar. Lots of percussion are added for “Waking Up The Dead.” The groove is more animated here and the cornet is featured in an interesting solo. Lovely sings with abandon and the guitar slips and slides.
“Big Black Cadillac” is slow rocking blues with a little country flavour added. A strident guitar lead (styled after Stephen Stills?) and vocal approach to this one are the main thrust and selling points. “Everything Means Nothing” is another dark cut that begins with a deep bluesy groove that is the backdrop for the cut. Haunting slide guitar plays behind Lovely and then solos; Eamon Ryland’s appearance on the album for one cut on slide is effective.
He second half of the CD begins with an acoustic cut “Hade’s Bride (There Was a Time).” Eric Gorfain on violin and Richard Dodd on viola create another haunting feel along with the acoustic guitar and mandolin by Al Bonhomme.Karen sings of a love lost back in time and the simple yet moving support make this chilling. Next up is a song called “Molotov Cocktails.” Lovely sings and orders up, “Another round of Molotov cocktails, please.” She comments sarcastically in a song about the isolation and bad things in the world due to our segregation and division across so many boundaries of our society and world. Even the guitar solo sounds troubled and the organ chimes in similarly.
“Next Time” is another nice shuffle in a grand and familiar sort of Willie Dixon and Chicago way. The piano plinks as the bass bumps and moves along and Lovely sings how next time her relationship will be filled with better things, perhaps offering some hope in this generally otherwise somber expression of feeling. The piano solo and support by Phil Parlapiano is a great part of this one. “Nice and Easy” offers more haunting guitar and a slow and dark cut asking to be let down easy because she knows another woman has set her hooks to deep to be removed. Pettibone’s slide is well done here.
“Punk Rock Johnny Cash” has a modernistic jug band feel with dobro, percussion and a little violin backing Lovely as she sings about the subway musician who has smitten her. It’s a pretty piece. The album concludes with “The River’s Wide,” a song about the growing division between her and her ex. Produced Eric Corne backs her vocals, does acoustic guitar and harp here as Lovely belts out the lyric and the organ (Parlapiano) takes us to church a bit.
This is a deep and dark set of cut. Lovely seems to be working through some hurtful emotions with these songs, perhaps therapy for building on a new and better day. Whatever it is, they are beautifully done and movingly crafted and played out. While it may not be an album to listen to when you need an uplifting day, perhaps sharing in living the hurts and wounds expressed here will make you think you life is not so bad. Lovely has done a fine job here– this is a truly exceptional album of thoughtful and moving songs.