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Karen Grace - Bitter Sweet

  by Malcolm Carter

published: 19 / 6 / 2015

Karen Grace - Bitter Sweet
Label: Karen Grace
Format: CD


London-based singer/songwriter Karen Grace follows up last year’s ‘Deep Down Things’ EP with her fascinating full-length debut album, displaying a rare and unique talent

It’s been just over a year since we first heard of Karen Grace. The early months of 2014 saw the release of ‘Deep Down Things’, a five-track sampler of a refreshingly unique talent. While there is certainly no shortage of female singer/songwriters, Grace, on this EP, certainly made her mark felt. And while there are other British singer/songwriters currently pushing boundaries with their music despite being unfairly grouped into genres and who are more than worthy of your attention, what initially impressed most who heard ‘Deep Down Things’ was the fact that the music Grace created was unclassifiable. That statement is made in the most sincere and respectful way; the music that Grace crafted didn’t fit neatly into any specific genre. There were no immediate comparisons that came to mind. When was the last time that music that instantly had an effect on you didn’t also come with some kind of reference point? So many female singers express more in one song through their vocals than many males can throughout a whole album, and Karen Grace is one such singer. Grace not only has a unique vocal style, but also writes such fascinating songs it’s difficult not to be totally immersed in her music from the very first few seconds. To start with the facts; ‘Bitter Sweet’ consists of eleven songs, some of which were also featured on the ‘Deep Down Things’ EP, and like, the EP tracks, the album was produced by Iain Archer (Snow Patrol, Jake Bugg, Ivor Novello award winner) and Dave Lynch. While our review of the songs on ‘Deep Down Things’ covers some of the songs on ‘Bitter Sweet’ (although we would now also add that the video of ‘Deep Down Things’ really needs to be checked out; surely one of the most fascinating music videos to be filmed in recent years) and those songs sound just as innovative and spellbinding in the context of an album, it appears that they were far from all, or even the best, Grace has to offer. ‘Tired Heart’ opens the album and has lost none of its charm; it’s the perfect start to the album in spite of being featured on her EP. Grace’s crystal-clear vocals immediately capture the listener, while the inspiring musical backing is at odds with the melancholy lyrics. It’s a wonderfully produced, and for some strange reason the song takes on a completely new life as the opening song here rather than tucked away halfway through the EP. There are even hints of a show tune lingering in there somewhere, something that is expanded even further on the following song, the sing-a-long ‘Raised Our Glasses’. Again Grace’s vocals are the first thing that captures the listener’s attention, and the atmosphere created with this song also recalls the traditional dance music of Central Europe. The party vibe that the song conjures up is infectious and the obvious joy all concerned with making the track had is captured perfectly. ‘The Bus Spotter’ highlights Grace’s talent at writing little story/songs. Grace has a way of capturing the minuscule details of ordinary lives brilliantly. ‘The Scapegoat’ is another song where the coupling of that voice with astute lyrics is simply mesmerising. The way the song twists, turns and builds is breathtakingly affective. The arrangement of songs such as this is really impressive. ‘Sapling’, which appeared on Grace’s EP as an acoustic version, is given a work-over for the album version. Again it’s Grace’s cutting lyrics and emotive vocals that steal the show, no matter which version you listen to but this latest cut does work better as part of the album. ‘This Fear’, the banjo-drenched atmospheric piece that was a highlight of Grace’s EP, has lost none of its power or beauty, and, once again, seems to have found its rightful home in the context of the album. ‘The Mugger’ is simply astonishing; this song displays why Grace is in a class of one. The story is played out so well throughout the song, you can feel the fear of attack, not only in Grace’s lyrics but also in the accompanying music. In just two and half minutes Grace and her fellow musicians cover a whole two-hour movie; lyrically, vocally and musically it’s that effective. Grace closes the album with ‘She Never Asked’ which, despite never yet hearing a song by Karen Grace that has been anything less than captivating, must surely rank as one of her best so far, if not the best. The combination of one of our most expressive female vocalists with selected musicians who obviously share Grace’s vision and a producer who is also sympathetic to her music have together created a set of songs that will hold up for years to come.‘Bitter Sweet’ is an album quite unlike any other; it’s a totally original set of songs from a totally original artist who has no need to follow trends or do anything other than be herself. Karen Grace is a new young artist who deserves the success that is surely going to come her way.

Track Listing:-
1 Tired Heart
2 Raised Our Glasses
3 The Bus Spotter
4 The Scapegoat
5 Sapling
6 This Fear
7 Beauty Awoken
8 The Wild
9 Deep Down Things
10 The Mugger
11 She Never Asked

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Deep Down Things (2014)
Fantastic debut EP from elusive London-based singer-songwriter and musician, Karen Grace

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