Tuesday, March 14, 2017

More Letters about Audra Kubat's 'Mended Vessel'

Chris Bathgate and I continue to correspond with letters, each contemplating a single track of Audra Kubat's 2016 album, Mended Vessel

Hey again Chris.

It's a Sunday morning as I write this, and a winter's sun can't warm up the chill here at ground level. Between other writing assignments, I keep looking forward to returning to Mended Vessel and corresponding with you. What's new with you this week?

So, with "September," you're kinda carried through the fog of an austere opening, and eventually we're picked up by what's resonating with me most, the percussion: kicking in after the first verse; it mimicked, for me, something like a locomotive's chugging propulsion. The wistful lyrical ideas of bringing her "dear sweet love home again..." made it feel like a lost 19th century shanty tune or lovelorn Appalachian folk song. I have to remark, again, upon the suggestion of supernatural elements when she sings about "an ancient call..." that rings out. But let's also highlight the emotional waves of her voice, when she sings about the "laughter" that they share, it breaks with poignancy.

"September" stands out because of that electric guitar getting more space to surf and shred, something akin to a Mark Knopfler-esque understated flamboyancy... This tune could stand alone with Audra's acoustic playing, but I'm curious to hear what you think the electric guitar, paired with that piano, add to the atmosphere....

more soon,


Hey again to you, Jeff

Yes, this album has been weaving its way into my thoughts daily; its been the soundtrack for spring up here on the mountain.  There’s usually just pair of hummingbirds at the feeder in the winter, there’s many now. They zoom in and out of astonishing dog fights while waiting for their turn to feed. Otherwise things are pretty mellow up here on the mountain. Today I’m installing a galvanized top line onto a 6 foot fence, and then hiking into the woods to do some maintenance on a pelton wheel.

I’m right in line with you on this song, the feeling this is a lost song, from long ago. This minor country lilt elicits all the murder ballads and country tragedies I’m heard so far.  Especially in this “austere opening”, which carries in the minor centric verse.

I’m also in agreement with the thought that the song could be just Audra’s acoustic and her voice, its a great folk song with a wonderful vocal melody.  I think the instrumentation nuances you are bringing out are, again, nuanced and unobtrusive. I’m wondering how the production conversations for this record went prior to, and during, its recording. The song has the sweeping drones of the introduction, akimbo finger picking guitars, the rhythmic piano accompaniment, the shuffling drums, which each take small turns stepping out of the roll of supporting Audra’s voice.

To answer your specific questions about this pairing of electric guitar, piano and the atmosphere.  My favorite moment of the song is actually at 2:12, when these supporting elements break free in their own. As if replying to Audra’s voice almost. Again, they break out in the final chorus to make the conversation feel complete.  I’m wondering though, what would pronounced inversions sound like in this song. As a songwriter I’m wondering how that could be implemented to add even more zoomed in detail, but that wish might undo the very thing I appreciate about this songs unobtrusive instrumentation.


Click here for more on Chris Bathgate, re: his new album 'Dizzy Seas' (out May 19)

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