Kate Grom— Heroine: When Country Meets Smo-o-oth

When you listen to music as much as I do, you become jaded. Standard music (or mainstream, as I like to call it) usually marks songs for the scrap heap if only because the mind hears nothing new. You begin to listen for the odd twists, the coloring outside the lines, if you will, and sometimes ignore the obvious. Kate Grom does the exact opposite on Heroine. She writes from the heart and the songs reflect it. No chances, no stretching the envelope, just music in its simple glory. No coloring, outside the lines at least. The songs are brothers and sisters, first cousins and moms and dads. They are warmth even when the subject matter is not, comfortable in their familiarity. And people are going to call it Country.

Truth is, I can’t really call this Country. Country-Pop, maybe, but even that doesn’t nail it down. I can say that it captures what Grom set out to do. She has been writing both songs and poetry for years and compiled the songs she wanted. A method to her madness, if you will. Initially, she wrote for herself. “For me, a songs transition from its formative phase into final form is a journey and a process. I have more notebooks lining my shelves than I can keep track of, all containing self-penned songs & poetry. I never get rid of these notebooks as many of the songs filling the pages are ever changing & evolving. The songs penned by myself on the record are my first proficient efforts as a young artist and they reflect a unique season of my life. With that in mind, I knew that these songs in particular had to be included in this debut collection while others wait for their time to shine.” As for the others, “I wanted to challenge myself with something I was initially closed off to— the idea of writing with other people, or collaborating. At first, I was torn about it, but eventually my thoughts led me to the journey of a favorite painter, Monet. Monet collaborated with his contemporaries and also mentored many painters, in their early days, many of whom went on to be great painters in their own right.” Monet. I would never have guessed. “I challenged myself as an artist with the collaborations, with the new and exciting twists and turns that were around every corner/phrase/chord. You might guess that I was pleasantly rewarded by the collaboration process based on the final selections for the album.”

Indeed. While there are only two self-penned tunes, “Whistle Cry” and the title track, “Heroine,” they are strong enough to make me wonder why only two. The first leads off the album, a perfect mid-tempo combination of folk and country, the melody and harmonies downright beautiful but oh, that chorus!

And now I’m looking at a memory of my life/I was weathered and worn, I was shattered and sore/Until I heard that whistle cry for me/The sound of freedom was stronger than you could ever be

The sound of life, for Grom digs deeper than most. There is a folk truth to her songs.

Three collaborations with Stephanie Lambring made the cut— “Lose My Mind,” “This Storm,” and “Whiskey Eyes,” each song strong enough to be a single. In fact, “This Storm” is an early video focusing on the lyrics which, as I said, are a strong point. Just follow the bouncing ball and you will know what I mean.

Four more individual collaborations complete the album, each flowing one into the other. “Tricks,” the next single, is most impressive, a light pop tune co-written by Robert Kelly, whose name I shall be looking for from here on out. In fact, I shall be looking for Ruston Kelly, Audrey Spillman (whose name has actually crossed this desk on occasion), and Mando Saenz, as well. It is not often co-written songs flow as smoothly as theirs do here. (Preview “Tricks” here)

That this is a beautifully put together album is not surprising. The producer, Stewart Lerman, has a track record worth checking out and the band is terrific, especially David Mansfield who has a real touch on pedal steel. I contacted David to ask what he thought of the sessions. He loved them. How can you argue with a well-oiled machine and outstanding songs? “Kate had a very clear idea of what she wanted each instrument to sound like and the direction each song should take,” he wrote. “She sent me examples before we even met in the studio so I really knew what she wanted ahead of time. The actual session was effortless— for all of the preparation she never dictated what I should play and was open to all suggestions. It didn’t hurt that the material and performances were so good. All in all, a wonderful experience.” High praise from one of the masters of his instrument.

The album hits the street February 24th and the album release party is the next day at Rockwood Music Hall in New York. It’s a long walk from Oregon but if I had enough money for boots, I would consider it. After all, though Stephanie Lambring lives in Nashville, chances are fair to good she might well be there. The chance to hear those voices together raises the hair on my arms.

I’ll even throw in a bonus here— Grom’s version of a Christmas song: “All I Want For Christmas Is You.” Only three hundred-some days ’til Christmas, after all.

– No Depression

Categories: Reviews

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