Sound of the Morning – Katy J Pearson – Album Review
by Cathy Borwn
Like First Aid Kit, whom she recently supported on tour, Katy J Pearson has taken her country-inflected beginnings and breathed life into that venerable genre to create a modern, yet timeless sound. Following on from her debut release Return, which came out mid-lockdown in 2020, Sound of the Morning builds on that impressive debut while at the same time confounding expectation.
Pigeonhole Pearson at your peril. This album is happy to move seamlessly from the ‘70s vibe of opener ‘Sound of the Morning’ to the sharp-edged post-punk thrum of ‘Alligator’ via the smooth funk sound of ‘Game of Cards’. On the brass-soaked effervescence of ‘Howl’, she duets with Ollie
Wilde of Pet Shimmers to create a hypnotic slice of dance magic of which St Vincent would be proud, while she lets her distinctive vocal take centre stage on the more acoustic tracks ‘Storm to Pass’ and ‘The Hour’ .
Recent single ‘Talk Over Town’ might explore the anxieties of fame, but marks Pearson out as a confident creator of infectious power-pop. The album closes with a cover of Willow’s Song – Paul Giovanni’s classic ballad as featured in The Wicker Man – and Pearson invests it with an ethereal urgency thanks to a krautrock arrangement.
Her folk/ country reference points remain; they are just given depth with a broader palette. There is more colour on this album, like the driving guitar and ethereal flute on ‘The Riverbed’ to the subtle strings on recent single ‘Float’. The whole album vibrates with the sound of an artist pushing herself to try to discover just how far she can go and the more elaborate and pervasive production of Ali Change and Speedy Wunderground label boss Dan Carey adds a density and grit to proceedings.
Most importantly, at the centre of everything is Pearson’s striking voice, with its undoubted echoes of Kate Bush, Dolly Parton and Stevie Nicks. The constant comparisons can sometimes detract attention from the sheer individuality of her vocal performance. She can sound vulnerable one minute and strident the next, merging the sweetness of her singing with the power of darker arrangements to great effect.
There is so much to enjoy on this album – from insightful lyrics to lush instrumentation, intimate arrangements to sweeping melodies – all executed with an infectious and irresistible openness. The most impressive thing about Sound of the Morning is how Pearson makes every style feel like an extension of her own voice and her own intriguing creative sensibility. Sound of the Morning is a potent and optimistic album which confirms that Katy J Pearson as the real deal.