wears the trousers magazine

catherine feeny: people in the hole (2009)
September 24, 2009, 9:23 am
Filed under: album, review | Tags: , , ,


Catherine Feeny
People In The Hole •••½

You could be forgiven for thinking Catherine Feeny is something of an oddity in that she left behind the folk scene of Los Angeles for the East Anglia countryside, but it proved to be a successful move. Galvanising her songwriting, Feeny went on to follow her eponymous debut with 2006’s Hurricane Glass, a celebrated collection of sophisticated folk-pop that won her a (short-lived) deal with EMI, lucrative licensing deals and some decent promo. Third album People In The Hole finds Feeny once again working from the trenches of independence and came to fruition after another major relocation, this time to the artistic haven of Portland, Oregon. It’s a long way from Norfolk, but the hallmarks of her sound – the folksy acoustic styling, warm vocal delivery and soothing melodies – all remain, bolstered this time with more intricate arrangements.

Opener ‘Jacaranda’ is immediate evidence. It is extraordinarily hushed and fragile, with delicate acoustic guitar complemented very subtly by flutes, pedal steel and soft percussion as Feeny sings forlornly, “Most days I don’t feel nothing”. Once the piano enters the fold, creating an almost psychedelic sound collage with the other instruments, Feeny succeeds in creating an attractive aural atmosphere in place of a catchy melody. The title track is likewise deceptively detailed but far more memorable from a melodic standpoint, with Sebastian Rogers’ clear production allowing each element – the quietly-mixed background vocals and flourishes of electric piano and guitar – to make its mark. It’s also a decent lyric about the lack of communication and understanding between people, with Feeny questioning, “If we wanted to learn, could we?”

The album’s middle section keeps proceedings interesting with a variety of different styles. ‘He’s Like You, Only Better’ benefits from a slightly jazzy brief and slinky rhythm with piano and quirky percussion. ‘Bleeder’ is darker; its more unusual chord changes and fast-paced urgency marking it out as a highlight. Elsewhere, ‘The Bell & The Anchor’ is a relatively throwaway nursery rhyme-type ditty, pleasant and jaunty enough but lacking the emotional and musical weight of the other numbers. The brief ‘New York In The Spring’, with its pretty horns and strings, leads us into ‘You’d Better Run,’ another album highlight, with its enduring guitar lines and vocals, complete with subtle blasts of horns. Late album epic ‘The Rest Of Them’ begins slowly but develops into a glorious ballad with a beautiful string arrangement, and from this grand and emotional gem the pace changes completely for upbeat closer ‘Junk Queen’, a loosely country-inspired number that ends the album on an uplifting, humorous note.

People In The Hole isn’t anything especially new in the singer-songwriter genre, and Feeny doesn’t possess the striking originality of some of her peers, but this is undeniably an impressive collection of songs. The arrangements are all intricate and interesting while keeping the acoustic guitar firmly at the forefront of the mix, affording the album a warm, attractive feel that’s perfect for the autumn days ahead.

Matt Barton
Available exclusively from Catherine’s website; www.myspace.com/catherinefeeny


2 Comments so far
Leave a comment

The arrangements can’t be quite unique. They are either unique or not unique.

Comment by Phil Abernethy

An excellent point. Sorry, overlooked that one.

Comment by Wears The Trousers magazine

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: