Wanting some sultry southern slide driven gumbo to start your weekend with? Look no further as the opening song, Around The Bend on Susan Kane’s excellent album A Word Child should satisfy anyone reared on Little Feat and early Bonnie Raitt. Sliding into view with Billy Masters’ superb guitar slink buttressed by Mark Addison’s soulful organ Around The Bend grabs the attention even before Kane starts singing. And when she does the contract is signed, sealed and delivered with her voice strong, and effortless, an equal to Raitt back in the seventies. Add some fine harmonies from the ever excellent Jess Klein and you have the best opening song of the year so far.
Kane is a NY based singer who’s recorded this, her third album, in Austin, Texas and it’s certainly far removed from the cosmopolitan hustle and bustle. Instead we have the aforementioned southern blues style along with some sweet country best exemplified by the fiddle laced Buffalo Jump. Aside from her voice Kane is a fine writer with Buffalo Jump‘s jauntiness for example offset by the lyrics which appear to be a valedictory from an elderly woman preparing for her end. Elsewhere she uses a classic country sound to bemoan the life of a woman who considers herself invisible in the shadow of her partner on the heart tugging I Know About Your Broken Heart while Paulita’s Lament is a great narrative on the life, crimes and death of Billy The Kid as seen by his lover. Kane sounds great on all of these however she turns in her best performance on Aquamarine , a homage to a friend which flows as sweetly as a mountain stream. Here as elsewhere the playing is excellent with Masters (who also produced the album) dripping some magical notes from his guitar.
There are four cover versions. A fine twangy rendition of Stephen Ray Kirkman’s Black Roses which is energetic and engaging while an adaptation of Irish poet, Lady Augusta Persse, Lady Gregory, founder of the Abbey Theatre’s Donal Og takes Kane into Richard Thompson territory temporarily. Again Masters’ guitar is, well, masterful. Intriguingly the other two covers are both penned by the late Jerry Garcia in partnership with Robert hunter. The classic gambler’s tale Loser is given a fine reading while the more obscure Row Jimmy (from the Dead’s Wake of the Flood album) returns to the opening song’s organ and slide guitar groove and slides down as easily as honey.