Album Review | Self Release | Review by Allan Wilkinson | Stars: 5/5
I think the last time I singled out a song to play on repeat throughout the night was Jeff Buckley’s “Everybody Here Wants You”, which would have been ready for the bin by the time I’d finished with it, had it been on vinyl that is. I enjoy wearing out good records; it’s an enormously fulfilling pursuit. I’m currently in the process of wearing out KTB’s stunning “The Girl With the Sad Shoes” and in the process, unfairly neglecting to give the rest of the album Indelible Ink the chance of a fair play through before I pop the imaginary needle back to the start of Sad Shoes once again, annoying both the neighbours and the cat in the process. Let’s not beat about the bush here, Indelible Ink is a humdinger of an album. KTB, also known to her folks as Katy Bennett, has released her third full length album and has surpassed all former glories with a bunch of songs that encapsulate everything that is good about modern songwriters and modern song writing. The songs are at once melodic, highly memorable (well, especially if you’ve already played one of the songs a few hundred times already), well-constructed and hugely enjoyable, even the sad ones, which are guaranteed to tear your heart out. I first heard the name KTB when a young singer in Rotherham introduced a song called “Bluebird” at a gig two or three years ago and I made a mental note to check out what a KTB actually is. I now know that it isn’t a hip hop band, nor the Russian secret service, nor is it a piece of yellow plant machinery, or for that matter a metal joist that lives up in your loft, but a very fine and deeply emotive singer songwriter currently residing in the Midlands, specifically Birmingham. “You hide your accent well” I cheekily remarked in a recent interview. “Don’t even say that” Katy retorted, “I’m from a very nice Oxfordshire home”. A KTB is also a pleasant person to chat to over the phone, after a morning singing with school kids, which I found out recently when I interviewed her for Northern Sky. Like Regina Spektor, Katy’s voice seems equally at home with it’s almost Nick Drake-ish breathy quality, but when required, can be as forceful as they come. Take “The Girl With the Sad Shoes” for instance; towards the end of this stunning song, Katy manages to stir the emotions in the final chorus with an almost whispered refrain, only to belt out one final chorus, which encapsulates everything I love about Katy Bennett. The jazz inflected “Ampersand” kicks the album off after a brief prologue in “Bell”, a snippet of a song that is usually coupled with the final song on the album, sort of sandwiching the rest of the songs within. Stephen Molczanski’s muted trumpet brings a 1920s feel to this hugely infectious stomper of a song, a song that suggests that all we need is that all important ampersand between two names to encourage blossoming love. The title song “Indelible Ink” is heart wrenchingly gorgeous yet achingly sad at the same time; you tend to believe every single word as Katy pours her heart out. If you allow yourself to climb into this song, it will break your heart, yet it’s rewarding to believe for a second that you might be ‘one of the few who understands’. I recently asked Katy how she feels about singing such personal songs, to which she responded with a comparison to communal folk singing: “I think if you can communicate a universal feeling to another person through a very specific feeling within you, which connects with another person, then that’s just as valid as singing the same song together. Some people who hear my songs have said it really helped me, my husband had just died – because when they were sad they’d listen to it, which is what people do; listen to sad music when they’re feeling sad”. Katy does sad songs remarkably well, in fact she admitted that her second album Bluebird was ‘stuffed with them’, but on a song like “Back From the Deep”, a song reflecting on a true incident that happened in Australia back in 2006, where a group of gold miners were trapped underground, Katy presents an uplifting song of hope, which is almost anthemic in its arrangement. It’s these little glimmers of hope that give Katy’s songs of despair, sorrow and unrequited love the accessibility they deserve. It’s almost as if Katy allows us to enjoy her sorrow. “Willow Tree” like “Back from the Deep”, lends itself to traditional folk balladeering and both songs could easily have been written a century ago. Katy had Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet in mind when she wrote “I Like You Like Me”, one of the outstanding songs on the album. “It was a fairly teenage moment of thinking I’d fallen for someone, I hadn’t really it’s just someone who is not really available, but which makes them more desirable in a way”. The theme of unrequited love is repeated in Katy’s songs on all her recorded output to date but on this song the singer is resigned to accept that there are ultimately plenty more fish in the sea: “I think I wrote that by the sea actually, down in Cornwall one year, hence the lyrics relating to fish in the sea”. Indelible Ink’ is a joint effort and any review of the album would be incomplete without a mention of Katy’s collaborator Phill Ward, whose production work, musicianship and general multi-tasking has gone towards ensuring this third KTB album transcends everything that has gone before. With one instrumental interlude, the twelve songs on Indelible Ink are held together by an indelible thread, each with an enduring quality from the opening few bars of “Bell” to the closing refrain of “Cavalry Parade”, where Katy’s namesakes, the Bennett sisters in Jane Austin’s Pride and Prejudice, provide the romantic image of being pulled out of the crowd by the hand of destiny. The repeated refrain of ‘Someone there will make your daddy proud’, seems to stay with you long after the record has been put back in its sleeve, which at the moment is rare.