Katy Kirby is somethin' real rare. Not just in relation to her pure voice, or true skill with words, but in a very now-specific way: Katy Kirby, somehow, in 2016, has figured out how to write a love song both fresh and authentic.
Kirby released a three track EP aptly and simply named 3 in mid 2015, but it just got over to our ears about a month ago, and it is without question one of our bigger misses of last year. This is a strong piece of recording, the kind of single-person guitar-heavy folk that can only come from an obviously young, obviously flipped-on young person that hits their musical stride at just the right age to capture that elusive something, as wild as it is sad, that only the youth ever have captured in folk. Often someone this age, and this hip to modern sounds, writes folk that's indulgent and immature in its approach, not knowing the history of its genre enough and wanting to be taken too seriously. But not Katy Kirby. You can take her seriously right now. She's got the stuff, and she's using it right.
3 is evidence of that. The EP in question begins with its strongest track, though don't take that to mean that the rest isn't quality. It is, but opener “Every Time” is a sunny day special. Like a classic folk song (it wouldn't surprise me one bit to learn that Kirby is well versed in such songs), it gets to its good hook early, and damn is it good when Kirby sings “Every time I count my blessings/I count you first."
That there's a line worthy of a song, as is Kirby's voice itself that sings those endearing words. You notice that voice particularly in the bridge, where most of the 60s-inspired “fields-and-mountains” guitar picking quiets down to let you hear her timbre nice and clear. Katy Kirby's voice is the star of these tracks, just as it should be, and you know it's truly quality because it's best when it hits its highest notes. Those tone are pure and clear like only some talented young girls have ever been able to do (well, and Diane Coffee), and it's not something you have to question. You hear it in your bones.
The other two tracks may not grip me in the heart (and have me thinking of that countryside air I grew up in) quite like “Every Time,” but they're nothing but good as well. “Every Time” is followed by the much more country “Come Back to Nashville,” a nice track that shows off Kirby's story-building skills and continues to trbrsl her modern era-bucking ability to write those damn love songs that really get to you.
3 then closes at its most experimental, though with a track that's still quite well-built and efficient for being so. Called “All of Everything,” the song is much slower than the rest of the record, and it ditches the guitar for a hymn-ready organ sound and a filtering of Kirby's robin's tones through a heavy electric fade. It sounds like a song you'd unexpectedly hear playing out of one of those old kids “The cow says moo” toys, complete with barnyard sounds and the true spirit of the South inside of it, and indeed the whole song feels like Kirby's take on the past seen through the lens of now. It's her own hymn, sripping the form of its oldschool dogma and making it breathy with the air of the modern, independent era, which has its own way of looking at the world's pretty things.
This is a real romantic's record- no bullshit and full of lovely clouddrifter harmonies. It might be almost a year old at this point, but it's good enough and still little-known enough to absolutely demand to be on your Spring 2016 playlist, espeically as we hit the kind of rare temperate days in Texas that Kirby says the record was completed during. The next sunny day, take this one out with you and sit with it a bit in the light and the breeze. You won't regret it one bit, nor will you regret taking a second to try Katy Kirby on for size below.
(You can also vote for Katy Kirby for The Deli Austin's Artist of the Month to the right, so get on that if you like what you hear.)