Written by Hannah of Rockmycommute.com
Looking at the cover art of Erin Kay’s recent 2014 release Into the Light, you see a woman with nothing to prove – fully confident and rejoicing in the light and natural splendor that surrounds her. It is a really good image that fits with the style and tone of her enjoyable music. Her bandcamp profile compares her to Joni Mitchell (well-known of course) and also Serena Ryder and Brandi Carlile (you may be slightly less familiar with these two). At first listen, Erin’s voice takes me back to the great angsty female singer-songwriters of the 90s à la Paula Cole – and even good ol’ Alanis Morissette.
What I like about Erin initially is that her voice is aggressive, emotional and deliberate – this type of music can often feature a breathy vocalist that can’t convey much intention. But Erin’s voice comes across very strong and full of conviction. She plays guitar and sings, and she is also the primary pianist for the album. In this respect she is similar to Sarah Bareilles who is also a piano-based artist with an amazing voice and poignant songs.
The opening song – “Into the Light” – starts out with a bare structure of simple piano, but then opens up to pull you in with richer instrumentation. It is really a promising and solid first track that will make you want to hear the whole album. The music on the second track (“Let You Down”) is gorgeous and strummy – reminds me of music from Cranberries or Sixpence None the Richer that just puts you into a beautiful frame of mind. The song is slow, but brimming with energy that does not drag.
Track #3 (“Come On Home”) has the driving, upbeat rhythms that I always look for on a good album – you can’t have just one quiet song after another or the collection just falls flat. This piece shows that Erin is capable of writing a variety of songs that don’t all sound the same. Her voice rings especially raw, confident, and true on this track. “Peace of Mind” is next – a little slower, and a little sadder. But even this track eventually blooms with a little bit of country guitar that will have you swaying along. This is music that you can really feel – perfect for an autumn afternoon or a rainy morning when you are alone with your thoughts. The song doesn’t actually close, but has a fade-out-ending – remember when that used to be done all the time? Sometimes it is still really nice to keep the mood going in that way.
“The Right Direction” is basically a duet with a country-ish male partner vocalist, resulting in something along the lines of a mellow song from a Lady Antebellum album. Whining grand-ol-opry organ and wailing guitar throw caution to the wind on this emotionally expressive song. This might be my favorite one for singing along to in the car – it is almost cathartic! The next song “All These Years” is a sentimental song about past and future. On this track, Erin sounds very like Natalie Merchant – the style is similar too. The short, 7-track album ends with “High and Dry” which starts as the darkest and saddest yet. But it then releases into a hopeful and forgiving chorus – “I will never leave you high, I will never leave you dry, you are where I call my home.”
Overall, I have to say I love Erin’s voice. I love her ability to infuse each track with so much emotion, with these piano chords that reverb right into your gut. I just wish she ended the album on a more upbeat note with another one of her more energetic songs that would pull all of this great work together – to remind us of how strong and versatile she is. Regardless, if you like some of the comparable artists that I have referenced here, with touching lyrics and heartfelt melodies; then you will enjoy Erin Kay. She is from Edmonton, Alberta – so you might not be able to catch her in a live show locally anytime soon. But in the meantime I heartily encourage you to check out her sweet, sunny website and enjoy her well-crafted album.