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Catherine Feeny - Hurricane Glass (2007)

Catherine Feeny, Hurricane Glass

Review by Jack Foley

IndieLondon Rating: 4 out of 5

HAVING achieved considerable success when it was first released [in 2006], Catherine Feeny’s debut album Hurricane Glass is now re-issued by the resurrected Charisma label [which she recently signed to] and given a new lease of life.

The album now features different mixes of Touch Back Down and Always Tonight, by Jeremy Wheatley, plus two bonus tracks in the form of Shape You’re In and hidden track Why.

Of the two new offerings Shape You’re In is a slow-builder of thrilling intensity, built around some strong piano chords (a solo, in particular) and some layered vocals. It’s evidence of Feeny’s ever-growing confidence in her ability to stretch herself.

While Why is a sweet, reflective piece that strips things right down to an excellent combination of Feeny’s vocals and an acoustic guitar. It’s well worth allowing the final track to run, as it’s hidden behind it. A shame, really, given it deserves more prominence.

The re-worked version of Touch Back Down was recently released as a single and unfolds amid a swelling tide of strings, a gliding vocal melody and a creeping dawn of realisation. It’s an intelligent tale of truth misplaced and deception long untouched.

And there’s even more enchanting flute on Always Tonight, another highlight, that contains a breezy acoustic style reminiscent to Suzanne Vega. It’s a warm sounding track that belies the torment contained within the lyrics – “I’m sitting on top of the my hands, watching the world go by, tapping my feet on the floor, wondering, wondering why things don’t work out right”.

Born in Philadelphia but now living in Norfolk, Catherine became influenced by music at an early age and draws on influences such as Joni Mitchell, The Smiths, PJ Harvey, Sonic Youth and Sinead O’Connor.

Hurricane Glass contains plenty of traces of those artists, as well as the likes of Sheryl Crow and Suzanne Vega (who she recently supported). It’s a deeply introspective album that focuses on personal struggles and complex relationships – but never in an overly depressing way.

Some of the songs are slow building and borderline sombre but there are some genuinely warm melodies as well, which give rise to several album highlights.

One of them is undoubtedly the shimmering piano ballad, Mr Blue, which entrances you immediately with its delicate chords and tantalising vocals. The track was used as part of the soundtrack for the recent Gwyneth Paltrow/Annette Bening film, Running With Scissors, after the director heard it on Nic Harcour’s influential LA morning radio show while driving to the film set.

With its lovely lyrics (“Mr Blue, I told you that I love you, please believe me”), delivered in a wonderfully bittersweet style, the track drifts along in delightful fashion, even injecting some excellent flugel horn from Dave Land late on.

The politically-minded Unsteady Ground is another strong offering, offsetting some hard-hitting words (“the children don’t know yet that we’re bombing Baghdad”) with some lush instrumentation (including mandolin, accordion and acoustic guitar).

Indeed, one of the strongest features of the album is Feeny’s ability to enliven otherwise straight-forward acoustic ballads with smart stabs of instruments such as flutes, strings and mandolins. It means that paying close attention pays huge dividends for the listener.

Other highlights include the shimmering title track, Hurricane Glass, which rocks things up a little and drops some feisty, Sheryl Crow-style vocals, and the poignant final track Forever, which once again excels in its choice of instrumentation by adding a Wurlitzer and some more mandolin to the mix.

Hurricane Glass is therefore an utterly enchanting listen that looks set to turn Feeny into a household name, especially now that she has the full weight of the Charisma label behind her.

Download picks: Hurricane glass, Forever, Mr Blue, Unsteady Ground, Always Tonight

Track listing:

  1. Touch Back Down (Jeremy Wheatley Mix)
  2. Mr Blue
  3. I Still Don’t Believe You
  4. Always Tonight (Jeremy Wheatley Mix)
  5. The Shape You’re In
  6. Hush Now
  7. Radar
  8. Unsteady Ground
  9. Hurricane Glass
  10. No Reply
  11. Forever (Contains Hidden Track ‘Why’)