Katy Carr, Providence

Katy Carr is a British singer-songwriter of Polish, English and Scottish background. She is fiercely proud of her Polish heritage, which she has been referring to extensively throughout her music career. When I think Katy Carr, I see a tall dark-haired lady in one of her signature 1940s inspired outfits, gently strumming the ukulele, while singing her own songs in her unique deep dark voice.
At the end of last month, Katy released her latest album, Providence.

The album includes a curiously eclectic mix of themes, a veritable feast for the intellectually minded among us. In Providence, Katy takes her audience on historical, cultural and literary rollercoaster, which ranges from recounting the 1920 Battle of Warsaw during the Polish-Soviet war, through tributes to Oscar Wilde, Elizabeth I, and Boadicea, to singing the praises of the Hampstead Ladies’ Pond. The latter is my favourite song in this collection. The Hampstead Ladies’ Pond is an utterly surreal place, Katy Carr re-creates its esoteric, peculiar nature perfectly.

The album includes one song performed in its original Polish, Hej, Sokoły (Hey, Falcons). The song has been every traditional Polish wedding reception’s staple for decades. Katy adds her unique vocal interpretation to this absolute legend of a song, bringing it beautifully close to its original Ukrainian steppes setting, with her slow and maudlin version, whilst adding her trademark folk harmonies.

Throughout this album, I can’t help hearing distant echoes of another singer of Slavic origin, Regina Spektor, both in the quirky lyrics, and in the tone of Katy’s voice.

I will leave you with a review from a very dear friend of mine, who has spent the last 40 years working in the Polish ‘music industry’, as a musician, composer, conductor, and music director. He can play more instruments that I can name. He requested to remain anonymous.

Katy Carr’s album transports me into a different world. The world of dark brown chambers, styled in the austere aesthetics of musical painters who inhabit them, and who are for ever waiting for a visitor from the past, knowing that he will not be coming.  Nevertheless, they insist on arranging objects from their past on the table, in the belief that these items will help evoke the spirit of the bygone eras.  The sound of this record gives the chambers their colour, the objects on the table are the instruments used in it. And what an unusual combination of instruments it is. A cello, piano fender, harmonica, mandolin and … a drum machine of the 1980s!  Is it possible to conjure up anything out of it? I can say with appreciative certainty, that it works beautifully. It works thanks to Katy Carr’s dark voice, brimming with the honesty of expression. Her voice manages to magically glue together seemingly mismatched elements, and the result is a truly unique album, in which we hear folk music combining the Scottish singing aesthetics, and instrumental performance with notes originating in Poland and Ukraine. Perfect for long autumn evenings, best enjoyed with a glass of smoky whiskey. I heartily recommend!      

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