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john davies
notes from a small vicar
from a parish
in Liverpool, UK

    Tuesday, January 30, 2007
    It's her mouth
     


    It's her mouth. There, at the top of the cd cover. Emphasising the title of this, her seventh solo set. Learn to SING Like a Star. Not look like a star; nor dress like a star; no - SING. That's all a serious musician really need aspire to, and that's all Kristin knows how to do. She's been doing it for rather a long time now and she's doing it every bit as well as ever. I celebrate and give thanks.

    First time I saw her was a Throwing Muses set in a small Liverpool bar. It was at the end of a day when one of my grandmothers had died. I'd tied myself in torment about whether or not to go out and enjoy myself that night. But a Kristin gig embraces mere enjoyment - and goes way beyond it. It was probably just what I needed. Seeing Kristin, the vulnerable woman with the mighty voice, rolling her eyes into her head in ways which confirmed to my youthful mind what I'd read about her in the music press: here was a woman who had come through bouts of serious mental illness. Come through fighting, scarred, and with an acuity which showed - brilliantly - in her art.

    That night Kristin sang, "It's just that mean old Texas sun / It makes me dizzy, dizzy, dizzy in my head". But we all knew, in that intense space, it was more than just the sun making her dizzy, making us dizzy. It was her potent poetry of the inner mind. It was the way she connected her abstract inscapes of self-revelation through wheeling neck, naked arms, working fingers, to the most engaging, energising and moving guitar music. Kristin sings with intensity about the deepest, brightest, darkest things in her heart. It's very personal music. But probably because of that the attuned listener can connect, and occupy those inscapes for themselves.

    The latest time I saw her was in 2005 at that wonderful Camden Barfly gig where Linda and I thrilled to an intimate and joyous set where Kristin was supported so well by The McCarricks. Kristin, mature, at ease with herself and her audience, and awesomely skilled, whether with ballads or her blazing twisted blues. The same group of musicians played together on this new album and are out on UK tour together again in March. I dearly hope to catch them because on the evidence of Learn to Sing Like a Star it will be another memorable night. Kristin Hersh is no celebrity. She's a true star. Ie, stellar.

    Tonight in my ears Kristin sings, with characteristic terseness, "nerve endings / think they see pleasure coming / I know better / put a rock into my brain / I feel almost everything". A great new song, like all her other great songs, it seems to make no sense at all. And yet it makes every bit of sense.