Kim Guy - Wednesday's Child - Review

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Mar 19 2010, 20h54

Kim Guy has been part of many musical formations over the years, but until last month, she had not put out a CD in her own name Her debut album, Wednesday's Child, is a collection of covers of s and a selection of mostly songs by other songwriters, all arranged, played and sung in a distinctive style that is hard to describe in words. Nevertheless, since words are all that we have, here goes.

In most versions of the nursery rhyme, Wednesday's Child is full of , and Kim describes herself as “looking at the world through woes-colored glasses.” It is her ability to give authentic voice to melancholic thoughts and gloomy emotions in song, coupled with a delightful tendency to wordplay and historical references that makes it such a joy to be in the presence of this album and this talented musician.

My first thought on unwrapping the CD was “What is that on the cover?!” It seemed to be a sideways picture of an ancient effigy of a frog or maybe a green bird with one bloodshot eye, and the pupil of the eye looks like a blood-engorged ant. She explains that it is a museum piece, a canopic jar from Egypt, whose top was the head of some totemic animal. The rest of the album art is equally interesting, consisting of sepia-toned color montages of pressed plants, photographs and gravestone markings. There is only a minimum of writing on the CD packaging: just track lists and credits. The most intriguing part of the text is the “special whatnots” section, which includes “The Mighty Theobroma” (I looked it up... did you know that chocolate is the food of the gods?) The credits also let me know that Kim is wholly responsible for the sounds on the album, with extensive and indispensable production, mixing, mastering and artwork help from Paul Dye.

Listening to the album is something that should be done in a leisurely way over a period of time, preferably with good earphones.. This kind of music has to soak into you like good bath salts.

The first song is the traditional “Rolling of the Stone”, which includes, as most such ballads do, a tragic mishap leading to a death. In this case the heroine is skilled in magical charms and manages to revive her dead lover, so that all ends happily (I think). The instrumentation includes thunderous percussion and electronically-generated chimes. At certain points, the music creeps inside my gut while I'm listening and thumps me in a place where I can't ignore it.

Next comes a recent rock tune by Roland Orzabal of the group Tears for Fears, called “Watch Me Bleed”. This song may have been popular at a time when I was not paying attention to the hits, but for me Kim's version is the one and only version I have heard, and I was surprised to discover that she had not written it herself, since its querulous take on suffering fits the album's theme perfectly. I was sure that “Heaven comes to She Who Waits” was her turn of phrase. On this song Kim plays a meditative with some synthesized organ-like accompaniment.

I was a great fan of Simon and Garfunkel in the 1960s, but “The Sparrow” was one song that I seem to have lifted the needle over while wearing out the grooves of other tracks on the same album, so that, once again, Kim's version is the first and best one I have consciously heard. The song tells the story of a little dying bird asking the rest of nature to take pity and getting none. Finally the Earth promises to see to his eulogy, as she does for us all. This was the first song on the album I fell in love with and played over and over. She accompanies her echoing self-harmonies with a very simple and beautiful guitar melody.

The Neil Young song “Like a Hurricane” follows. It is a moody song, and Kim plays it well on guitar with a synthesized drone and a rainstick.

“I Come and Stand at Every Door”, otherwise known as “The Dead Child of Hiroshima” is one I'm well acquainted with. It is sung in the persona of a child who dies in Hiroshima, pleading to those who are still living for peace. The guitar accompaniment on this one is also simple and appropriately full of foreboding. Kim's voice is altered to sound like an echoing whisper.

“He Moved (Through the Fair)” is a recasting of the traditional ballad in which a dead betrothed wife comes back as a ghost. The title of Kim's version implies that the dead betrothed one is male, but the song itself is completely instrumental. The introductory themes are, according to Kim, taken from a Jewish funeral service, but I initially heard them as a minor-key rendition of “I'm a Little Teapot” and the old soviet national anthem. The core of the song is the traditional melody of the ballad, played on flute and drone with the thundering percussion mentioned earlier.

The very core of the album is one of my favorite Richard Thompson songs “The Dimming of the Day”, which is an absolute joy to listen to, sounding folk-like with guitar and self-harmonies.

Steve Knightley's song “Exile” continues the mournful tone, with a well-constructed multi-instrumental accompaniment.

Next comes an eastern-european dance-song with modern lyrics called “Blood and Gold”, a powerful anti-war song. Kim delivers it strongly with more of the thundering percussion and some bulgarian-style choral that can't be beat.

My favorite version of “The Unquiet Grave” had been Joan Baez's. Kim's phrasing of the song is completely different from Joan's, and at the moment, I can't say which I like better. The sounds of moaning winds enhance the effect of the song.

The album closes with John Bramwell's (of the group I Am Kloot) song “Avenue of Hope”. The lyrics remain mysterious to me after quite a few listenings. Kim delivers it with a persistent walking guitar accompaniment and pecussion that remids me of inexorable footsteps.

Though you will find Kim's efforts at self-promotion humorously self-deprecating, pay her no mind and order this album forthwith (http://www.myspace.com/wyrdguy). Then put it in your best CD player and prepare to be (quite literally at some points, but not in a bad way) “blown away” into a wonderful sepia-toned world. You won't regret it!

-Jim Giddings
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