You Mustn't Kick It Around - Erin McKeown, Hart, Lorenz
How to Open My Heart in 4 Easy Steps
Love in 2 Parts
Erin McKeown's quirky, folksy music weds the intimacy of the coffeehouse circuit with the braininess of her daytime gig as an ethnomusicology student at Brown University. Accompanying herself on guitar, piano, banjo, and t... more »he odd sampler, this precocious Virginia native has crafted a winning album of original songs that range from the coy minimalism of "Queen of Quiet" to the genuine beauty of "How to Open My Heart in 4 Easy Steps." McKeown infuses her songs with a droll wit and a keen awareness of jazz, blues, and Tin Pan Alley traditions (how many 23-year-olds cover Rodgers and Hart's "You Mustn't Kick It Around"?). With its echoes of Gillian Welch, k.d. lang, Suzanne Vega, and the Handsome Family, Distillation is an eclectic collection of mostly upbeat tunes that play nicely while the barn is burning. --Bill Forman« less
Erin McKeown's quirky, folksy music weds the intimacy of the coffeehouse circuit with the braininess of her daytime gig as an ethnomusicology student at Brown University. Accompanying herself on guitar, piano, banjo, and the odd sampler, this precocious Virginia native has crafted a winning album of original songs that range from the coy minimalism of "Queen of Quiet" to the genuine beauty of "How to Open My Heart in 4 Easy Steps." McKeown infuses her songs with a droll wit and a keen awareness of jazz, blues, and Tin Pan Alley traditions (how many 23-year-olds cover Rodgers and Hart's "You Mustn't Kick It Around"?). With its echoes of Gillian Welch, k.d. lang, Suzanne Vega, and the Handsome Family, Distillation is an eclectic collection of mostly upbeat tunes that play nicely while the barn is burning. --Bill Forman
"She's the queen of quiet and soon the UK is going to see what the US has been keeping from them when her debut album "Distillation" gets a UK release in February. Already very popular and well known among the folk community of the states, this is the 24 year old Erin McKeown's first major release after her two successful 2,500 cassette only releases, a self-titled debut and "Monday Morning Cold" (1998) and. One of America's best-kept secrets and well worth the wait.Mrs McKeown in her songs achieves the goal of both being distinctly modern, living up to her post-Bjork and Moby comparisons and at the same time old fashioned brining swinging 1920's jazz onto such songs as "Blackbirds". Erin grew up in Virginia and it was at Brown University that she found her unique gift for combining music old and new into her own hybrid style. Very difficult to pigeonhole in one genre toying with everything from modern pop, swing jazz and cabaret. She showcases here all her past influences and love of music and movies. While it's easy to get caught up with the comparisons it must also be said that this is unlike anything else before it, Erin is the first of her kind and it's easier to imagine that in the future people will compare artists to her, instead of visa versa which is a view shared by many writers like Dar Williams, "Don't let anybody tell you that Erin McKeown is the 'next' anyone. She's the very first Erin McKeown, and she's great."Another extraordinary thing is the production, or lack of it. All of this record is self financed and instead of confining her sound to a soulless generic recording studio Erin and producer David Chalfant relocated to a farmhouse out in Massachusetts. All of the tracks were recorded here and very few have any processed electronic tinkering on them .The songs are refreshingly real sounding and gritty without the usual re-mastering that occurs. What you get is what happened and this, for use of a better word makes it sound real and fresh. The whole thing from the recording to promotion (self promoted from word of mouth and her website) is all very down to earth and grassroots.Plucky guitar opener "Queen of Quiet" the shortest of the songs offered here, introduces unusual and enchanting vocal stylings not to dissimilar to US singers Kd Lang, but more energetic and uplifting. It also showcases her brilliant song writing with lyrics confessing her to be "The kind of lover that won't run for cover, what kind of lover am I?". Then "Blackbirds", a jazzy, blues style number is so catchy and infectious with it's danceable blues guitar sounds and lovable lyrics harking back in many ways to the children's rhyme with the birds of the same name. If you don't get the urge to dance to this, then check for a pulse. All the songs have smart lyrics from an artist who is offering us everything she is and while some of the best are partly collages of other influences as used on "Blackbirds" she really comes into herself with the more coherent songs like "The Little Cowboy" with the haunting images of roses and cocaine. While we've had ladies giving us distinct and original vocals before, Alanis Morrisette or Ani Difranco for instance, it's the combination her of striking singing and skilful playing of whatever instrument she picks up be it a banjo or a guitar. Smart and very cool.To the slow emotional "How to open my heart in 4 easy steps". Erin flexing her songwritting muscles again and asking kindly to "Untie these strings, from around my heart" and sadly confessing herself as "undone". That description is appropriate for this and many songs that are so open and overflowing with ideas and emotion. The perfect almost-a-love songs to complete the amazingly eclectic collection of songs. So cheerful and instantly likable, so diverse that everyone will find something here to there taste. Fans of eclectic musicians like Badly Drawn Boy and the increasingly famous Polyphonic Spree will embrace this album openly. Buy this and then buy her previous albums on re-release soon."
ricky | Liverpool, UK | 04/09/2003
(4 out of 5 stars)
"The topics of uncertainty and love has never been so subtly expressed as Erin McKeown has managed to do so, and in her debut proper 'Distillation' she explores swing, folk and Tin Pan Alley jazz with beguiling consequences. Acoustic guitar number 'Queen of Quiet' is the first and the shortest song, with McKeown's Deep South drawl adding to the uplifting mood set by this opener. 'Blackbirds' develops with a more of a jazz/blues style, delivered with a great deal of swagger, and she manages to do that to more or a lesser degree in every song. It is with lyrics that the 24 year old excels in the most. Subjects of death among others are dealt with humour and sensitivity, "....we both found heaven right then, you just chose not to come back...." in 'La Petite Mort' a country number with bluegrass roots, and touches on the topics of cocaine and roses in the poignant 'The Little Cowboy' where McKeown reaches Joni Mitchell levels of diva dizziness. The slim production of the record successfully brings out McKeown's ability to use an instrument both rhythmically and sonically. As a result of this the songs sound resolute and bright, with the result that the quieter moments on this record are at times the memorable and striking moments, especially on the quieter times on 'Daisy and Prudence' and the yearning 'Love In 2 Parts' which shows her songwriting to be strong and her delivery impeccable. Swing is also an obvious influence, and provides the jollier moments with a cover of Rodger and Hart's 'You mustn't kick it around' and the quirky 'Didn't They?'. Each song is intricate despite its simplicity, overflowing with invention and sentiment, and is sure to win the hearts of those who cross her path. With 'Distillation' Erin McKeown has proved that less is indeed much, much more.Ricky"
What more can you say?
Richard Martinez | boston, ma United States | 04/30/2002
(5 out of 5 stars)
"For those of you who feel you've out grown Ani Difranco because you don't like the way she's heading, give this lil gal a try. It's not all political riot grrl angst here. This 5 foot spit fire delivers prose like a emerson on benzedrine. Her Alternate tunings on her guitar change from song to song and give each one a distinctive feel that connects with each word that pours from her mouth. Her Songs move from theme to theme and genre to genre, never lulling in expectation. "Queen of Quiet" breaks it down in an almost contradictory spoken word speech. I've never heard a hop-along country song like "little cowboy" mosey along as if Roy Rogers and Jack kerouac collaborated On The "dusty" Road. Watch this one. She's gonna have more tricks up her sleeve."
Hasn't left my CD player in 4 months
Thomas Weiss | Bellows Falls, VT United States | 02/26/2003
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Wow, what can I say, the lady is the complete package, an intersting voice, the most original lyrics and the coolest guitar playing I've heard since Richard Thompson. Hearing blackbird once propelled me to buy Distillation and have not been dissapointed. It has occupied my #1 slot in my 6 disc changer for 4 months, obsessed? I guess!"