Between Blood And Ocean
(2019 - self release - USA)
Courtney Swain has a voice that carries an old soul, a gentle spirit, with quick change and emotions galore, and all that in one song at times. From fragile to potent and powerful, her ability to transfer visual audio to the listener is unreal. Add her fantastic compositional skills, her significant keyboard proficiency, and you have the whole package. Coming from Providence, Rhode Island, this is her 5th release (including singles/EPs) and on it she shows more versatility than ever. Along with breathy ballads, she throws in one 80's style rocker 'Don't Look At Me' (track #4) that could have come from a Kim Wilde album (well almost). The huge epic 'Snowflakes' (track #5) and 'Black Sheep' (track #8) have a slice of the raw emotions that make Annie Lennox and Adele appealing to many. The third song 'I'd Kill' will throw fans a new look as well, with a upbeat blues banger hybrid that keeps Swain's stamp alive and well. But no worries for the people who crave Courtney's marvelous dreamy ballads that are always soaked with rapture, as there are plenty to chose from ('Uranium City', 'Sweet Snow', 'Silver Needle of Pine', and several others).
While she has had a solo career since 2013, she is well known as singer and keyboardist for Bent Knee, who have broken the mold in the avant rock/art pop world over and over again. However, Courtney's solo work is mostly an escape from that, with very personal lyrics, an intimate relationship between voice, her keyboards, and the audience. As with her previous release 'Growing Pains' (2017), the fans are a witness to her yearly germination. This album was a result from a stay at Martha’s Vineyard during a residency awarded by the Turkey Land Cove Foundation. It was a strong collaborative project with fellow musicians Asher Kurtz - guitar/ Jed Lingat - bass/ Kyle Harris - drums/ and Tim Doherty - guitar (on 'Sweet Snow'). And also completed with the cheerful and kind technical aid of Vince Welch (producer), Bradford Krieger at Big Nice Studio (engineer), Dave Minehan at Woolly Mammoth Sound (engineer) , Randy Roos at Squam Sound (mastering), Chisato Tanaka (artwork), and Scott Siskind (album layout). All songs written by Courtney Swain.
'White Trees' gets big and brings in the techno pop to a overwhelming plateau, ending with the one and only Courtney way. 'Good Things Come' is a short whiff (46 seconds) of her soundscape skills, creating a gorgeous floating cloud of dreams. 'Between Blood And Ocean' ends with a treasure ballad 'Sand Angels', that equals in measure, anything she has ever done. As well, this is one of those tearjerker ballads that the audience will swoon over. The album is robust and overflowing with passion, sometimes tender, other times muscular. We can only thank the artist for baring her soul and expressing it in these beautiful compositions. It is rare to have such candor in this world, from a musician who can translate the range of deeply hidden inner thoughts, into such melody and atmosphere. RECOMMENDED.
©Reviewed by Lee Henderson 7 - 21 - 2019