Tuesday, March 7, 2017

More Letters About Audra Kubat's 'Mended Vessel'

So, as I reported in yesterday's post: singer/songwriter Chris Bathgate is writing a review of Audra Kubat's 'Mended Vessel...' I'm joining him in this, as I think a collaborative album review, a true dialogue with music, is something long overdue and worth attempting... I'm eager to see what we render from these writings...

Bathgate is in California, so he and I steadily writing letters to each other, diving in and digging around inside of each song, letter by letter... track by track...

While you're here, I have to tell you that you have an opportunity to see Ms. Kubat perform on Saturday night (more info here

***From here on out, the letters between myself and Mr. Bathgate will be posted every Tuesday, so we'll see you again on the 14th for a song called "September..." 

Meanwhile, here's track 2: "Mountain Woman" 

Part 2: "Mountain Woman" 

Dear Chris,

Indeed..., I've heard some strange, and actually troubling things about the powerful storms you've had in Northern California. Stay safe! And..., yes, thermometers are still disconcertingly high around here, in Michigan. Spring's pretty much here.

I wonder, can you tell how much a song means to a musician just by listening to it? An album is always, in theory, 10-equal parts (sometimes 11), in that it's a collection of songs, of statements. But this one, even as a second entry, already evokes an elevated significance in, above all, her voice.

I feel like we'll be talking about her voice in each of our letters. That voice is something like a gale, or a wave, or some organic-yet-not-quite-categorized ambiance you'd hear winding its way around oak trees and idyllic hills. I think that last sentence is suggestive of where this song sends me, in my mind, the visuals it manifests, and the way her voice can go from a whisper to a full throated intonation inside one note...!!

And something about the guitars, the harmonization of a more furtive and fleet cascade over a steadier pluck ringing out just every four measures or so. But those lyrics, looking back with reverence to an elder, with reverence to a lifestyle, an environment, that may be long-gone, or perhaps just so unknowable to many... It continues something from the first song ,that sense of seeking, seeking inside this frame of a lyrical story about a woman who helped raise her, a renewal of strength. I can hear how important this song is... Are any of your songs ever more important than others?



Dear Jeff,

Funny how the weather doesn’t feel so much like small talk these days.....

This thing you’re wondering about, if you can deduce a measure of value through a performance or recording. I think in some cases I could argue: in a recording, you can tell how much a song meant to its performer at the time. Though with the subject matter of this second track, “mountain women", a narrative so strongly connected to the album title “Mended Vessel", I would wager that the feeling behind this song has and will be sustained in Audra.

In regards to her voice, I also can draw similar visuals from it.  All of these images you use: gales, waves, winding, movement is what brings these to mind. It’s clear Audra’s vocally has prowess and nuance–of motion. There's proof of this in moments like the soft tailing decrescendo of the word “woman” in the tag line, in the impossible fading delivery of s on the word “pockets” just before the bridge, or the casualness with which her voice gallops upon the word “Californ-aye-eh”.

I might have a bias in my adoration of this song, its content, its mission.  As an ex-pat who recently moved to an off-grid truffle farm in the wooded mountains of Northern California I can find intersections between this songs protagonist, the conditions of her life, and my landscape. The Narcissus we have in the vases (picked on the mountain) were planted by homesteaders who settled here in 1880. The remains of ancient wood stoves peak out of the star thistle. It feels as though there are echoes of this mountain woman's world(s) in mine.

It’s so nice to come into an album with a description of a feeling, followed by the inspiration of a feeling. Again, I’m seeing Audra the architect, framing our view of this narrative through “The Bells”. We’ve come from floating in isolation to a jeweled homage. Of all the jewels presented: strength, courage to love, self-sufficiency, Audra saves the best for last. She pins it so subtly, which seems an important move in considering the real estate given to the idea. Healing, healing is admirable.

The ability to heal can be passed down. Healing is in the blood. I feel like I have some footing here as this second track closes. I’m wondering what’s next. I feel like I’ve been brought the keyhole. I have the image of salvation, and survival already knocking around my brain, I’m wondering where I will go next.

To answer your question, yes. Though, that spotlight of value is dynamic. I’m wondering the same of Audra as we press forward.



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