Smoking In Heaven
Sunday Best, 2011
REVIEW BY: Melanie Love
ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED: 11/08/2011
There is probably no greater compliment from a Johns Hopkins student to say that a band makes for good studying music. In the midst of midterms, the latest disc from sibling trio Kitty, Daisy & Lewis will keep you not just focused but downright cheerful. Smoking In Heaven is a pop throwback that still manages to sound fresh, tossing basically every type of genre and instrument into this collection of songs. Being that all three of the Durham siblings are multi-instrumentalists and have been performing together since 2000, the ease and talent of the tunes here is no surprise.
The album launches out with “Tomorrow,” a seamless blend of beachy Hawaiian and ska (featuring Jamaican trumpeter Edie “Tan Tan” Thorton). Daisy Durham’s vocals are endlessly charming, like a 60’s diva. Though Smoking In Heaven is only the trio’s sophomore effort, the material here is an ineffable combination of wise beyond its years and charmingly naïve. It was recorded and produced in Lewis’ home studio, giving the songs a loose, natural feel. In an era of ProTools, when everything can be tightened and glossed to perfection, it’s refreshing to see musicians playing straight from the heart – no frills, just the music itself coming alive for the listener.
Easily the album’s best feature is the fact that each of the Durham siblings takes the lead on vocals at one point or another. Lewis’ tracks – “Don’t Make A Fool Out Of Me” and “I’m Coming Home” – are a particular standout. While his sisters’ voices are excellent in their own right, toeing the line between innocently and sultry, Lewis gives his songs a more raw mood. “Don’t Make A Fool Out Of Me” sounds like it could be coming out of a jukebox decades ago, with Lewis singing plaintively over the shuffling drums and lines like “Well, now you told me honey baby that you was happy now / But you went and found yourself another man anyhow.” Meanwhile, “I’m Coming Home” veers away from the done-me-wrong sentiment, but it loses a bit of steam because of its quiet, guitar-strummed gentleness.
Every song here has its own unique flavor. “I’m Going Back,” with Daisy on vocals, is a rockabilly gem, all swinging guitars and double bass keeping the rhythm. It’s pure vintage in feel, but the band’s obvious passion is there and it makes this track a fun listen. Most of the material is as traditional-sounding as the lo-fi equipment and ‘50s instruments that it was recorded with. The song structures are simple and bluesy, recalling everyone from Chuck Berry to Elvis at times.
Still, the one caveat to Smoking In Heaven is that the songs can sound a little too similar at times. Also, there are times that Kitty, Daisy & Lewis veer towards being too authentic. It’s somehow easier to imagine this power trio in a smoky club in 1950 than it is to imagine them opening for Coldplay (which they did on their last world tour). Still, if you’re looking for an album that recalls a truly bygone era, Smoking In Heaven is an interesting, enjoyable listen. These songs of love and loss are, of course, just as applicable in 2011 as they would be listened to on vinyl decades ago.
|Great Review, I Love this Album!|