Kathryn Calder – Are You My Mother?

Rating: ★★★½ ·

You all might know Kathryn Calder from her role in The Immaculate Machine.  You might have also seen her grace the stage as a member of The New Pornographers.  But, now she has stepped aside from it all to record an album of her own, influenced by time spent with her mother during a terminal illness.  Are You My Mother is just another step in her progression as one of the great female voices on the scene.

“Slip Away” begins with some small maracas draped over a tinkering piano progression. Once Calder steps into the fold, you can see precisely why she has the ability to go it alone, as her vocals have an innocent quality, but one that seems established and confident at the same time.  You’ll find the power behind the chorus enchanting, though it’s little more than “oohs.”

While she establishes strong vocals from the beginning, her range is shown on “Low,” which recalls early recordings from Rilo Kiley.  Here, the piano treads lightly, and in the same manner, Kathryn softly lets her voice float atop the musical accompaniment, not pushing too hard to make it all work cohesively.  This same approach to her songwriting is used a lot on Are You My Mother, but she has the capability to turn her vocal tool in different directions, such as she does during the chorus on “Arrow.”  Such warm vocals definitely encourage you to fall head over heals with every word, and every uttered sound.

One of the great things about the record is that despite the vocal similarities on many of the tracks, she seems to push herself into direction that you might not expect her, challenging you, the listener.  “Follow Me Into the Hills” has a folk quality to it that you can grasp from her other collaborations, but it’s successful here in that it takes you down a different path than the preceding songs.  “A Day Long Past its Prime” takes a driving momentum to push the song forward, and male vocal accompaniment gives the album a bit of a heavier tone, albeit for a brief moment.  It’s those little touches that demonstrate her willingness to build her own musical resume, differentiating herself as she goes along.

Closing out the album is a soft little touch titled “All It Is.” Her voice has a bit of a whisper to it, giving you the impression of listening to an intimate confession.  It ends things with a crashing chorus, a magnificent summation of the record and its emotive powers.  From the production of Are You My Mother to Kathryn Calder‘s incredibly delicate voice, you see the rise of a solitary musician.  Her hard work honing her craft definitely has paid off here, creating a gentle collection of pop songs capable of warming your heart and spirit.

[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/07/Kcalder-Arrow.mp3]

Download: Kathryn Calder – Arrow [MP3]

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