ALPHABETICAL BY AUTHOR
Eric Bogle, CD review
Michael Coghlan, CD review
Jon Hart, CD review
(The Advertiser "Guide")
Zeus B Held, CD review
(the European connection)
Kat Kraus, performance review
David Mulhallen, reflections
(on ABC Radio collaboration)
Eric Bogle, CD review (In Folkus)
“Kate Battersby has always been an original and interesting songwriter, and probably because of those two adjectives has never garnered the following her music deserves, but then she’s not Robinson Crusoe in that respect. She has finally released a CD entitled Urban Folk, and many people will be saying it’s about time…
The CD is – and here I give it the Eric Bogle official Kiss of Death – never less than interesting and always original. The songs are sometimes a touch dense lyrically and subsequently hard to get inside of, but once you do, the result is invariably rewarding. Kate’s vocal delivery is passionate and uncompromising, much like her live performances, and though a couple of Maddy Prior singing-type mannerisms creep in now and then, overall the vocals are as honest and emotive as you would hope to expect from a singer/songwriter presenting her own songs.
My personal favourite is a song called ‘Mad’, followed closely by ‘We touch (like a feather)’, both at opposite ends of the emotional spectrum, and a fair bit of that spectrum is filled in by the rest of the songs on the CD.
Ray Smith has produced the CD, and I must say he’s made a pretty good job of it too. Given the eclectic nature of the songs, especially with regard to changes in rhythm and mood, as well as various other little Battersby eccentricities, he has achieved admirable production values without letting them swamp Kate’s lyrics, a mistake too often made by producers, which is reprehensible enough at the best of times, but unforgivable in a singer/songwriter album. Ray, thankfully, has avoided this trap. A first-up effort at producing, and a good one.
Overall then, a CD that was worth the wait. I hope it sells in decent quantities, it deserves to, at least in decent enough quantities for Kate to pay back the money she has no doubt had to borrow to get this CD done in the first place…”
Michael Coghlan, CD review (SCALA News)
“This CD has been a long time coming. Kate Battersby has been one of the better singer songwriters around Adelaide for a long time now. Sometimes camped in the folk scene, sometimes embraced by the other acoustic music scene that revolves around SCALA, and not content to rest in any one musical style, Kate has over the years presented a range of styles that cannot easily be consigned to one box. There are many acoustic musicians who are not solely folk performers, and sometimes they might even play rock songs, but they are not rock artists. They are acoustic musicians who need another audience that is neither exclusively one nor the other.
'Urban folk' may well be a convenient label for this dilemma, and the eclectic range of music that such artists play. It certainly fits in this case, and is an apt title for this collection. Urban Folk, the CD, contains far more than folk. Folk there is, but there is also a strong serve of jazz, and a taste of country.
Kate Battersby's strengths have always been strong vocal delivery, a great sense of rhythm and drama, and an ability to milk a melody. She has a remarkable ability to go to the extreme ends of the emotional spectrum with a voice that can be hard and bitter, or tantalisingly frail (just listen to the opening line of 'We Touch (like a feather)'). Add a collection of classy musicians from around town – Julian Barnett, Josh Bennett, Chris Finnen, Chris McGloin, Martin (Mort) Boyd to name a few – and you can't help but have a class act.
Long time Kate Battersby fans will recognise several songs that have deserved to be recorded since the day they were born, and it is a treat to hear 'It's Your Life', 'Charmed Circle', and the true story of 'The Ballad of Widow Jean' (a SA Folk Festival Songwriting Event winner) given group arrangements. My favourites are the folkier numbers that I associate as Kate's signature style, but the presence of several tracks in jazz territory are a surprising insight to where much of her musical soul may reside. Far from the sunny fields of a folk festival, 'Slow Lightning' (penned by once upon a time musical partner Sean Mangan), and 'Tales of Sad Romances' are more at home in a sleazy smoke filled cellar somewhere, and Kate does this stuff SO well. She has that husky moody vocal quality that lulls you into bluesy serenity and then jolts you back to a harsher reality as she shifts gear. The sax accompaniment by Marc Lucchesi on 'Slow Lightning' marks out this night owl territory perfectly. Tom Waits couldn't do it any better.
In another realm, the choice of uillean pipes (Jack Brennan) as musical backdrop for 'See You' was a master stroke. I have heard this song many times and never imagined a Celtic connection, but done this way it is even more moving – it’s an enchanting melody. And I love the chorus of 'It's Your Life', made all the more rich here with a layer of harmony.
Lryically these songs deal mostly with the complexities of what humans feel towards each other in relationships. Exceptions are 'The Ballad of Widow Jean', whose narrative tells of one way to deal with yobbos, and 'Voyager' – a whimsical greeting to the universe from planet Earth. None of the language used is complex, but Kate Battersby's lyrics manage to convey complexity of meaning with an economic use of words – a sign of well crafted lyrics composed with care. And as sweet and frail as some of these songs may sound, they reveal a spirit who is not willing to just live someone else's dream. 'Man Just Like You' has an independence that belies its opening line, and in 'Machine' the tenderness implores that 'I hope you'll understand I must reject you'.
It's a great CD this. A slick looking, well designed product inside and out that comes with lyrics included; jazz, folk, rock, and country; a wonderful voice that knows how to carry great melodies and showcase great phrasing, a catchy picking style (Kate has never been content just to strum chords for long), and many fine musical moments by a host of fine players.”
Jon Hart, CD review (The Advertiser “Guide” entertainment liftout)
“This debut has been long-awaited by those who have followed the Adelaide singer/ songwriter from pub to pub. Some songs here offer heartfelt meaning, while others are motivational observations on the journey of life. It opens sweetly with 'Voyager', while 'Man just like you' overflows with rich emotion. Encompassing many elements, from piano to saxophone to violin, it samples Apollo Mission Control towerspeak as well as telephones.
What seems simple, melodic music is actually Battersby's own style of well-thought-out, easy listening, moody songs. But it's the professional production which takes this album from good to better. "
Kat Kraus, live performance review (In folkus)
“… In my opinion, there is nothing more joyful than seeing and hearing great singer/songwriters ‘doing their own stuff’ on stage, and the show’s opening performer, Kate Battersby, reminded me of that. Kate has always had an uncompromising attitude that says ‘take me as you find me’, and never was that more evident than in this long overdue performance that precedes her own soon to be released CD. Kate continues to uphold her reputation as a passionate and professional performer …”
David Mulhallen, reflections on ABC Radio collaborations
[Now a freelance media and arts consultant, David is best-known for producing and presenting ABC Radio folk music programs 'Sunday folk', 'Songs and stories of Australia' and 'A swag of yarns'.]
“... For me, Kate Battersby remains a part of the best in folk. I am proud to say that whenever there was or is a special event to produce, I would always search Kate out and challenge her to come up with something new and individual, controversial, pictorial and most importantly dynamic.
Kate never let me down, gathering around her an array of the best folk musicians in Adelaide. She would prove time and time again that ... South Australian folk [is] a very strong creative force quite different in concept and style from the bush bands of Melbourne or the larrikins of Sydney. And each time these folk would gather together, new pieces would be written, new sounds would emerge and yet another audience would come away intrigued.
Kate Battersby is a premier singer/ songwriter in Australia and is equal to many women in folk both here and overseas. She is a leader of ideas especially when it comes to expressing the folk tradition in a contemporary idiom.
At last time and space have allowed for a long awaited album... I believe Kate's time has come and that not only will her album sell well but that it will bring Kate the national recognition she so richly deserves.”