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Kate Mann
Things Look Different When The Sun Goes Down
Orange Dress Records
www.katemann.com


Kate Mann's music brings out a mass consciousness that provokes folks to look at their lives and wonder what they could have done differently. Such a theme can be quickly gleaned from the title of her new album, Things Look Different When The Sun Goes Down released on her own label, Orange Dress Records. Her music has the savvy street-folk acoustics associated with Ray LaMontagne, as sinuous smoke-rings and velvety, bucolic waves bloom at the rate of the sun coming up the horizon. Her vocals have an inflection akin to Canada's Emm Gryner, and a resonance that moves in harmony with the country-folk shading emitted from Marilee Hord's fiddle, Skip von Kuske's cello, Amoree Lovell's accordion, and Sherry Pendarvis' strumming saw. The linear flight patterns of Mann's acoustic guitar simulate floating sensations as her band tows her along the bends and slopes of the melodic changes. The album really is a group effort as everyone probes into Mann's vision and mitigates the turns in her thought patterns.

Many tracks have a spiritual or séance-ish aura, like the title track as the supple strokes of Mann's acoustic guitar become entangled in smoky rhythmic strokes and a demonic tightening of the cello strings moving in and out of the phrasing with a specter's glide. The brushed snare drums strolling across "Robert Johnson Knew" are complimented by sizzling toots of the harmonica played by Joe Powers as soft wavy acoustics induce a pensive atmosphere. The roving billows wafting along "Here Again" lantern Mann's verses with tenderness, "Why must I be made of flesh and bones / I keep waiting for my heart to turn into stone, but it won't." The sobering low-fi burning is reminiscent of Mindy Smith as Mann affixes a throng of gentle whistles fanning across the folksy acoustic flames on the tail end of the track.

Other tracks have a coffeehouse-pop sprint to them, like the breezy swirls of the cello rings decorating "Needles And Pins," and the upbeat tempo and jiggly droplets raining down on "Funny Thing." The suppleness in the instrumentation exudes a soothing esthetic with creamy acoustics embraced by dainty, frothy swells. The solemn gait of "La Llorona" is enhanced with the Latin flavoring of Arturo Viloria's flamenco guitar and the Italian-styled accordion twirls that nestle soothingly against Mann's aching vocals. The album courses a stretch of sullen tones in the last three tracks with smoky bluegrass vapors snaking through "In A Movie," cavernous cello strokes molding the murky ocean floor of "Drag The River," and slingshots of cushiony pellets and fluid lines sailing along "You Can Have My Heart" sounding like they are embalmed in a sealed crypt.

Kate Mann's music has a common folk fare that is descriptive of a number of artists, though what may stand out about her music are her keen instincts for combining folk with slices of bluegrass and stills of world music accents with Italian and Spanish hues. She gives audiences more than the standard folk fare, which works to her advantage and broadens people's perceptions of what folk music entails. That is, as long as people are open to it.

-Susan Frances

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