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Annie Keating - Make Believing

  by Malcolm Carter

published: 18 / 1 / 2015

Annie Keating  - Make Believing
Label: Annie Keating
Format: CD


Haunting fusion of country, pop and soul on PledgeMusic-funded sixth album from gritty-voiced New York-based singer-songwriter, Annie Keating

Funded by a PledgeMusic campaign, this is Annie Keating’s sixth album and, although it’s early days, the signs are there already that it’s her best album so far. Keating wrote all ten songs on ‘Make Believing’ (although there are eleven songs on the album, more of that later) and co-produced the set with Jason Mercer, who also handles the bass throughout and embellishes a few tracks with banjo and acoustic guitar as well as contributing vocally. Firstly, for a totally independent album which had to rely on fan funding to be completed, it’s an accomplished and complete album; there have been no short cuts, the production is excellent, the band Keating has assembled is tight and the musicians sound like they have been together for years. The care, love and passion that every person involved in the making of this album put into the project shines through in every sound. It’s the winter solstice today yet the opening two songs on ‘Make Believing’, namely ‘Coney Island’ and ‘Sunny Dirt Road’, transported this writer back to a scorching July day; the feel-good atmosphere that obviously came naturally to those in the studio really breaks through on the opening songs and brighten up the darkest of days. Keating, like many others who are grouped in with the Americana crowd, has been compared to many of her contemporaries, but the fact is that Keating inhabits a place just around the corner from where the majority of the others stand. Keating has a unique vocal style for starters. While she is a powerful singer, it sounds like she’s singing in a loud whisper most of the time. That’s not a criticism. It makes Keating stand out from the crowd with her vocals alone, and the warmth and intimacy that this particular style of singing emits is appealing to say the least. There are times like on songs such as ‘Lost Girls’ where you feel Keating is in the room singing in her delicate voice just to you. ‘Coney Island’ is a brilliant choice for the opening song; the warmth of this New York seaside resort and the fun to be had in the amusement park there is captured perfectly. Keating’s vocals really capture the spirit of the place while her dreamy vocals lead you on a tour through the area. James Abrams' mandolin and Trina Hamlin’s harmonica, which pops up on most of the tracks on the album all add to the atmosphere. ‘Sunny Dirt Road’ is a leisurely walk along a dusty country lane, yellow fields gently dancing in the distance, while Abrams' fiddle and Hamlin’s harmonica softly blow away all your troubles. ‘I Want to Believe’ is where Keating shows that she can inject a little swampy soul into those laid-back country roots when required. It’s a smouldering organ drenched work-out that shows the band at their very best. Keating, although her vocals still have that gritty whisper, display an unexpected sultriness that makes the listener wish she’d explore this side of her music a little more. ‘Foxes’ sees Keating returning to her Americana roots, Chris Tarrow’s baritone guitar and weeping pedal steel complimenting Keating’s yearning vocal. When producer Mercer’s ‘mellotron choir’ sneaks in there, the result is breathtaking. ‘Just Up Ahead’ where Keating’s vocals almost take on a different sheen, is a stunning performance, the longing in her voice is particularly affecting. Once again, the band play as one in perfect harmony. For all the beauty in Keating’s vocals and her skill in composing songs, you’re reminded yet again just what an excellent choice of musicians Keating has assembled here. ‘Know How to Fall’ showcases Keating’s skill at fusing pop and her take on country perfectly, and there’s a version of this song (titled ‘If You Want to Fly’) that closes the album. The first version really should be blasting out of a radio on a beach somewhere. With handclaps and a rousing chorus it’s the perfect summer song, while the take that closes the album is an acoustic version that illustrates the beauty in the song that is hiding under the surface in the more upbeat cut. After listening to ‘Make Believing’ a few times, it becomes obvious that Annie Keating has just made the strongest album of her career. It’s not easy to put a label on Keating’s music anymore, for all the Americana/country references that have been made about her music, and we’ve made them too I know, they only tell part of the story. ‘Still Broken’ brings to the fore Keating’s country/soul leanings; with Matt Keating’s (the Tiltawhirl Matt Keating?) soulful organ embellishing the overall sound just perfectly Annie Keating proves she’s far from just another Americana singer/songwriter. She’s one of the best.

Track Listing:-
1 Coney Island
2 Sunny Dirt Road
3 I Want to Believe
4 Foxes
5 Sink or Swim
6 Just Up Ahead
7 Know How to Fall
8 One Good Morning
9 Lost Girls
10 Still Broken
11 If You Want to Fly

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