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The Good Graces – Close to the Sun (Fort Lowell)

The Good Graces - Close to the Sun
13 December 2014

Former Eskimo Kiss label head and ex-Pacer drummer/guitarist Kim Ware is the driving force behind this Atlanta folk collective, and Close to the Sun is the group’s third album, to go along with three EPs. As on 2013’s Drawn to You, she’s backed by a proficient posse, including the album’s two engineers Jay Manley and Rob Dyson on various instruments (Dyson also mixed and co-produced, with Ware), guitarists John McNicholas and David Minchew, and pianist/keyboardist Michael Roman. Though it shares many of the same characteristics as the radiant Drawn, Close manages to outshine it, thanks to more buoyant production and diverse arrangements. Excepting the quivery, fragmented lullaby “A Gain, Again,” and the shimmery, Liz Phair-like “Shea,” every track is punctuated by some percussion this time around. For example, the harmonica-speckled “Cold in California” cops a Johnny Cash-like country chug, the agitated, squealy “Standing in Line” has a noisy-rock stomp, and the near-whispered “Parts > Sum” sports a sultry, spaghetti western stomp that would make Ennio Morricone smile.

Once again, Ware hones heartbreak with honesty and hopefulness. She’s perplexed by relationships with incompatible partners, never really sure whether to stick them out or vamoose, and she still craves life changes that seem gallingly out of grasp. In fact, that elusive desire for change is plainly stated on the LP’s dreamy, soothing opener, “I Don’t Know Where to Start.” Elsewhere, the bouncy “My Own Grace” features a warm, pattering drum machine and Ware’s most vivacious vocal, as she ponders a once-perfect romance gone sour, while on the equally burbly “Curb Appeal,” she compares a vacuous, self-obsessed killjoy to an appealing-on-the-outside, empty-on-the-inside new house. And on two gorgeous, country-flecked pre-LP singles, “Under the Weather” and “Before You Go,” she ruminates about departed/departing lovers in a delectable, twangy, Juliana Hatfield-meets-Cassie Ramone coo. As on past releases, Ware deftly turns disillusioning dalliances into encouraging and enriching music. (fortlowell.blogspot.com)

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