Despite being championed by Bob Harris Annie Keating still seems to be somewhat under the radar in the big old world of Americana. Undeterred she keeps plugging away with Trick Star her seventh album and one that ensures that those in the know including The Telegraph’s Martin Chilton and the Glasgow Americana festival, will continue to sing her praises.
Keating says of Trick Star that it’s about being raised up, torn down and finding the way back home. There’s certainly a lot of memories contained here, the title song is about her first bicycle (something like a BMX) and offers her the one opportunity on the album to rock out with snarly slide guitar over a solid organ groove and a fine Dylan subterranean blues rap in the middle. The remainder of the album however is classic Keating, her voice often tender, almost childlike in its vulnerability at times, the songs clusters of fully realised images and emotions. While there’s a Donovan like innocent frivolity on the trombone borne Creatures, Keating wishing for the freedom and peace of mind she imagines the animal kingdom to enjoy, and a fine pop rock swirl on Time To Help Me Forget it’s on the more restrained and contemplative numbers where she truly shines.
In The Valley is a lilting number with sweet pedal steel and viola and a bittersweet lyric as Keating describes an Elysian field, a place to lay her head. Slow Waltz aches, recalling Patti Page’s Tennessee Waltz as it slowly wends its way, Keating recalling a summer night at a carnival many years ago with the opening lines again allude to death as she sings, “I’m over my head, I’m trying not to care, I’m six feet under the overpass where we first met”. Regret and forgiveness is writ throughout the very tender Orchard and the winsome country stylings of Come and Go while Fool For You is a halting and intimate song of self recrimination.
Keating’s regular posse of musicians ((Steve Mayone, Jason Mercer, Chris Tarrow, Yuval Lion and Trina Hamlin) are credited by her as having been fully involved in the evolution and arrangement of the songs and throughout they are in fine form. They shine however on Lucky, a song that recalls the simple folkiness of John Prine in its lyrics as the band combine rippling acoustic strings with a fine curdled electric guitar.
According to Keating the seed of the album was sown at a concert at London’s Barbican Theatre when she heard the Brooklyn Youth Chorus performing Black Mountain Songs, a celebration of the North Carolina institute which in the 1930’s forged a blueprint for American alternative culture. Moved by the performance Keating wrote and has teamed up with the Chorus for the closing song here, Phoenix. A celebration of the power of music and words, the rebirth of hope, an anthem of optimism it’s an addendum to the main body of the album but it’s also an anchor, ensuring that despite loss and hurt there’s always hope.