Kathleen Dunbar sings in a staccato falsetto that eerily recalls Joni Mitchell’s best work. Her voice is high, sweet and thin like a reed instrument, subsuming the sharper edges of words into a breathy trill.
But unlike Mitchell, Dunbar doesn’t just stick to folk music on her new album, Finally Home. Her outstanding accompanists play all kinds of instruments: guitar, mandola, banjo, fiddle, Irish whistle, trombone. One track even features a theramin. Using their fierce and apparently endless instrumental talents as a backdrop, Dunbar travels from lilting Celtic-inspired tunes, to New Age-ish wailings, to chatty folk songs.
However, my favorite songs on the album are the country-style tracks. When she’s backed by Gawain Mathews’ low-country twang, Dunbar’s pretty voice gets a little tougher, a little warmer, and a lot more fun. She’s at her very best on a song called “Red Boots,” a long narrative tune about a country girl growing up and learning to pick a man. The song is funny, sweet and foot-stomping, a promising example of the things Dunbar is capable of.
This is a great album by a talented musician who, like the heroine in “Red Boots,” is going places fast..
Favorite Track: “Red Boots”