Katie Spencer – Good Morning Sky review by Nick Boldock
Less than a year after the release of her debut EP, “Live Soundtrack To A Short Film”, Hull singer-songwriter Katie Spencer is already back, with a brand new five track mini album “Good Morning Sky”.
Whereas “Live Soundtrack…” was a predominantly solo affair, this new release sees Katie backed by a roster of accomplished guest musicians, among them Brian Young, Ted McKenna (ex Sensational Alex Harvey Band, Michael Schenker Group and others), Foss Patterson and Hull’s own Tim O’Connor.
First impressions are pleasing – the CD comes in a nicely presented gatefold sleeve with striking cover art by Katie herself (she’s clearly multi-talented). What’s inside is just as good.
Comparisons with the likes of Laura Marling are impossible to avoid but that’s no criticism – there may be obvious similarities between the two artists (it would be silly to suggest otherwise) but the sound is still very much Katie’s own, albeit with a nod or two to some commendable influences.
Opener “It’s True” actually recalls Joni Mitchell more than anything, leading into the vocal with a sumptuous keyboard intro courtesy of Foss Paterson. The guitar is picked sparsely, almost minimalist (it works well) and is played on an instrument formerly owned by none other than the late John Martyn. Yes, THAT John Martyn. Blimey.
Second track “Magazines” moves into electric mode (and here we really are in Marling territory). “Your ideas don’t resemble me”, Katie sings, taking a well-aimed swipe at the type of magazines that tell young girls how to think (at least I think that’s the gist of it – it was my interpretation at any rate).
Lead single “Children (Don’t You Know)” puts me in mind of US songwriter Jessica Lea Mayfield (that’s a huge compliment) and is, as Katie told Folk Radio UK, about “the idea that the child is ever-present in the adult, proving that age really is just a human construct when building relationships with people”. It also comes with a splendid guitar solo from longstanding local musician and all round good egg Tim O’Connor.
The album wraps up with two further tracks, “Moths To The Light” and “Can’t Resist The Road”, and the standard doesn’t slip. Considered, thoughtful guitar and that warm, deep vocal. Nice.
This is an impressively mature (mini) album for such a young musician (Katie has only been performing since 2014) and the standard of the arrangements and production is startling. It shows a sharp mind, too – assembling such an experienced rhythm section is a very shrewd move, and is no small factor in the quality of the finished article.
So, all in all an excellent CD, possibly a little on the short side (the album weighs in at just twenty minutes), but then you know what they say – always leave them wanting more. And why not.
Katie joined Browse for a brief chat…
“Good Morning Sky” is the follow up to your debut release, 2016’s “Live Soundtrack To A Short Film” – how do you feel your music has progressed on this new release?
The live soundtrack ran alongside a short film that Patrick Mateer and I made. It was exploring the imagination and creativity behind writing music and songs, consequently the soundtrack was just my voice and acoustic guitar – it was deliberately simple. Since then I have obviously discovered and listened to more music, and recently I have been getting into a lot more jazz based stuff. So I guess my music has progressed in the current release because I was able to realise these thoughts and ideas in the studio with a bunch of brilliant musicians. I love exploring the places you can take the songs within that environment.
Opening track “It’s True” credits you as playing “John Martyn’s acoustic guitar” – we have to ask, how did that come about?
The recording opportunity as a whole came about because I headed down to a John Martyn Gathering in 2015. At one point in the afternoon, we all got our guitars out and played our music. The atmosphere was great: Danny Thompson [legendary bass player] and a whole bunch of John’s friends were about. They seemed to dig my music, and once I got home I received a call from one of those guys – Jim McKnight. He put me in touch with Brian Young, who was to be the producer of the mini album. So I started recording up in Glasgow at Brian’s studio, and Jim wandered in one morning holding a tattered guitar case, with one of John’s old Martin’s inside. It was gorgeous and still had his teeth-marks in the bridge pins where he’d bite them out whilst changing strings.
You’re joined on the album by a number of excellent guest musicians, not least renowned drummer Ted McKenna – how did you come to work with Ted?
Ted is a wonderful guy, and of course an outstanding musician. He has so many stories, and it was groovy to play live together in Hull. We met through Brian Young, the producer. I think Ted and I will work together again.
You’ve taken a lot of care over the presentation of the album, with a gatefold sleeve and professional artwork – it’s really nicely put together and a great example of how it’s done – how important is it to market your product properly?
For me, if I’m in a record store I’m willing to take a punt on something unknown if it looks good and feels good. I’ve always been into ‘art’ and I love exploring record sleeves – among my favorites are those of Gong, Van Morrison, Jethro Tull… I’m super interested in discovering ways to make your ‘image’ match your sound, and so after many trial runs and varying designs, I settled on this deconstructed screen-print that I layered and layered. It’s such a buzz to have a sort of cottage industry going on too.
You’ve come a long way in just a few short years – away from the studio you’ve also earned some prestigious support slots with the likes of Martin Stephenson and recently, Ian Hunter. How does it feel to see your music career moving so quickly? It must be like a waking dream some days?
There is so much to learn from these guys, it’s such a blessing to be able to do these things and call it a profession. One of the first records I ever listened to was an Ian Hunter album, super cool.
What’s next for Katie Spencer? Any gigs coming up, any plans for future releases? Might we see a full-length album?
I have ideas buzzing for a full-length album, perhaps a more guitar-based exploration but still keeping the vibey input from Foss Paterson on keys. Playing live is one of my favourite aspects of being a musician, so I’m always playing and planning more gigs.
Buy “Good Morning Sky” from www.katiespencer.net