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Annie Keating - For Keeps

  by Malcolm Carter

published: 9 / 5 / 2013

Annie Keating  - For Keeps
Label: Annie Keating
Format: CD


Flawed but ultimately impressive country/folk pop on fifth album from New York-based singer-songwriter, Annie Keating

Flawed, but ultimately highly impressive fifth album from New York-based singer-songwriter, Annie Keating The fifth album from New York based singer-songwriter Annie Keating throws up a few surprises, not least at the very end of the twelve strong collection of songs. After eleven original Keating songs, the New Yorker choose to close the album with a chilling version of the very same song its composer, Neil Young, ended his second solo album with. The thought that ‘Cowgirl in the Sand’, a brooding classic Crazy Horse workout on Young’s album, could be equaled by another artist is almost laughable. Who would even have the nerve to think that they could add anything at all to the original? Young’s gossamer vocals coupled with the usual Crazy Horse onslaught of guitars made the song an instant classic. So Annie Keating has got to be either very confident or very naive to even try to cover such a song. Thankfully, after listening to ‘For Keeps’ and being mightily impressed not only by Keating’s expressive vocals but also her songwriting prowess on her self penned songs, any doubt that she was going to let herself down by closing the album with such a well-loved song vanishes within the first few seconds with Teddy Kumpel’s bare, haunting guitar lines actually adding a whole new dimension to the track. When Keating’s country soaked vocals come in, it almost takes your breath away. Cutting seven minutes from the original version of the song actually adds so much more to this version of ‘Cowgirl in the Sand’. It is an outstanding performance from all concerned and simply demands to be heard. ‘For Keeps’ then closes with an absolute stunner of a song, but the same can’t be said of the opening cut, ‘Storm Warning’. It is a perfect performance of a blues based slice of country pie which displays Keating’s songwriting talent and appealing vocals but, considering what Keating and her band did with that closing track, it is an uninspired way of opening the album. A real case of having heard it all before. It feels petty finding fault in such a well-played and produced piece of music. Jon Graboff plays Dobro on the song which in itself gives some suggestion of the quality of the playing, but in all honesty any number of albums start this way. It is run-of-the–mill and, thankfully not an indication of what is to follow. ‘Right By You’ follows and immediately the mood changes. Like most of the songs that follow this track is has its roots in the country/folk genre; Graboff’s pedal steel almost steals the show but Keating’s pretty, addictive melody (something that Keating is exceptional at is creating melodies that are so inviting it is impossible not to sing along with them almost instantly), and her warm, almost at times whispered, vocals feel like Keating is singing just for you most of the time. If this song or any of those that follow had opened this album, initial impressions of Keating would have been much more positive. The tunes actually appear to get even stronger as the album progresses. By the time you get to ‘Leap of Faith’ which appears just short of halfway through the album, Keating’s vocals, which can sound a little slight in places, also suddenly make sense; far from sounding vulnerable her breathy style has powerful undercurrents and the sultriness that Keating displays in this song and the following track, ‘Sidecar’ mark her out as a particularly distinctive singer. If Keating wanted to open the album with a song that showed a different side to her talent than the well-crafted poppy country/folk which makes up the majority of ‘For Keeps’, a better choice would have been ‘Let It Come’; blues harmonica opens the song before chunky, funky guitar licks weave in and out of a track which is the closest Keating is ever likely to get to recording a rap song. It works well mainly because unlike the opener, ‘Storm Warning’, although elements of the song have obviously been heard before, it is not something you’d expect from Keating. On the whole Keating does bring something new to this type of song. There are two versions of ‘Take Only What You Can Carry’, the first one a faster full-band version which is followed five songs later by a more subdued cut that almost sounds like a different song entirely with Keating’s vocals at their most fragile. More proof that Keating is a songwriter of some class. Comparing Keating to any of her contemporaries is pointless. Here is an artist who really does have a voice and a vision of her own. ‘For Keeps’ isn’t a grower. It will register with the very first listen and stay there. It is a keeper for sure. Given the quality of the songs and playing on this album, anyone who has tickets for the UK tour Keating has planned for September looks set to be in for an evening of great music.

Track Listing:-
1 Storm Warning
2 Right By You
3 Just for Today
4 Take Only What You Can Carry
5 Leap of Faith
6 Sidecar
7 All Gone
8 Let It Come
9 River Clyde
10 Take Only What You Can Carry (J's Version)
11 Thrill of the Chase
12 Cowgirl in the Sand

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