Grace Hearn & Michael Savage
Messy Blue Ending
Having recorded three albums under the Hand To Mouth moniker, this is Grace Hearn and Michael Savage’s first album released under their own names, perhaps to coincide with a newfound sense of intimacy and brutally dark honesty. Musically, this album really doesn’t represent all that much of a departure from their former efforts, but there’s an urgency and presence to this album that haven’t been as evident until now.
Moving between the angst-ridden folk pop of Juliana Hatfield and Cowboy Junkies’ doomsday indie folk, the most obvious reference point may still be Kristin Hersh. Hearn & Savage, then, have an expansive outlook, but they manage to pull things together and put together a coherent whole.
Not all of this is equally interesting — the title track’s sweet folk pop isn’t too brave, the lazy jazz tripping of “Frank” is a tad too obvious, and “Innocents” is far too sanctimonious. That said, there are more than enough good songs on here to make up for those few blunders: “Crush” offers unsettling indie folk, while “Snow on the Ground” is a moody, chilling track. “Hope And Despair” shimmers brightly, and “What I Can Do Low (I Can Do High)” mixes film noir and sweeping dream-folk with remarkable results.
The main features of the album, though, are the names on the album cover: Grace Hearn’s amazing voice should win all but the most hardened cynic over, while Michael Savage’s guitar playing is exciting and brave, taking in everything from bluegrass picking to electric white noise. Messy Blue Ending isn’t a faultless album by any stretch of the imagination, but it still has more to offer than most low-key folk pop releases you’re likely to encounter this year, and it’s definitely worthy of your attention.
Grace Hearn & Michael Savage: http://www.graceandsavage.com