At this year’s Grand Northern Ukulele Festival Kate And Her Baritone stunned audiences on the Uplugthewood Stage. The intimate atmosphere and the celebration of music allowed for a captivating performance that was received warmly by the GNUF audience, myself included. Following on from this showcase, Kate has a new album out, can it impress as much as her live set?
The opening “Home” presents a promising start to proceedings, as the marriage of a mellow cello and a delicately-picked ukulele breathe an atmosphere of curiosity and class. Kate carries a strong, chesty voice, but she exercises great control with some infectious melodies and immersive harmonies for the hooks. Between the simple story to the peculiar instrumentation choices, the song carries such a sweetness to it, similar to Laura Farrow’s “Darling You”.
KAHB occasionally indulges in some melancholy, with tracks like “If Only” guiding you through some dark stories with tense harmony. The pace is picked up by jovial tracks like “Oh What a Life” and “Drunk” that flirt with you through sugary lines of charm like “If I got sick would you kiss me anyway” or “I’m gonna sing at the top of my lungs, pour my heart in every line” in-fitting of the typical happy uke motif.
Kent-born Kate remains a singer-songwriter, and some of her personal sad songs bleed teenage angst whilst creating some great lyrical imagery. Lines like “I feel like marmalade, and you’re the jam” and “I should get a piece of you in my coffee and my cake” are so evocative, and “Safe” builds wonderfully in tension, especially showcasing Kate’s well-composed backing vocals that are a highlight of the album.
“We belong together” is a jewel on this album. Telling the story of a crazy stalker from a unique perspective, Kate exercises her comedic chops in great fashion, without losing the twinkly charm that her strong voice brings. “Bluebell Woods” brings the caress of Kate’s legato mumbling as it strokes your neck, and the delicate piano parts hit home the sense of loss in a way I think would be more fitting earlier in the album.
A special mention has to be given to “Lavender”. Void of lyrics, the song itself is a 2 minute story told through harmonised oos, a gently fingerpicked ukulele, and a church-like reverb. The choral arrangement is multi-faceted, escalating, and it engulfs you in its beauty. It is such a pleasant listen.
The album ends with “Dream At Last”, and it concludes the album on an uplifting note with its compound time and high-registered piano. At 5 minutes, KAHB goes into detail telling the last part of her story as the rich arrangement continues to build, bringing a nice sense of community, which is what music should be all about-bringing people together.
In general the album can be a bit hit-and-miss in various areas. Odd production choices, timing issues, or vocal imperfections are peppered throughout in various places, which can distract from the listening experience. With a little tidying this album could be so much more, as there are a lot of gems lying here.
Overall “Save Me” is a good album. With 12 songs, Kate And Her Baritone takes you on a journey of various moods. From the solemn to the humorous to the ethereal, Kate pulls them all off despite some inconsistencies in production and performance. Kate And Her Baritone is an artist full of great ideas, she just needs more experience and polishing to bring out something truly special. 7/10
You can listen to Save Me here: