Katy Boyd: Paper Hearts
This album comes from last year but seemed to have slipped under my radar till now. She sounds pure Nashville but Katy Boyd is a native Californian who has spent a good part of her adult life in the UK. A stop-start musical career has revived in recent years with her return/debut album (Ain’t No Fairy Tale) getting quite a warm reception. This most recent album came about from Katy meeting guitarist/producer Thomm Jutz (in Belfast of all places) and getting to put the record together in Thomm’s Nashville studio. Thomm Jutz is the go-to man of the moment for allsorts of great songwriters and he’s made a characteristically tasteful job on this record, embellishing Katy’s songs without drowning them in radio-necessary bombast. Sweet touches on fiddle, guitar, mandolin and banjo decorate this record in a manner that enriches the feel of each song.
The songs themselves are in the same sort of field as those of Mary Chapin Carpenter – a wry, contemplative look at real lives. Some songs sound like they could be autobiographical but it’s not really important to know whether they are or not. Dysfunctional families, relationships gone wrong, a couple of songs about the lives of travelling entertainers and one about single mothers all add up to a bunch of songs that deal with the rough side of life. Katy tells a story within a song – very much in classic country style – and the expansiveness of her storytelling is pointed up by contrast with the one cover she performs, Steve Winwood’s Can’t Find My Way Home. That song is pretty much a masterclass in lyrical minimalism, and it gets a lovely treatment here with some lonesome banjo and fiddle, both sounding pretty mournful.
Most of these songs unfold at their leisure but Happy Single Mothers Day has a nicely ironic jauntiness to its down-and-dirty tale of life in a household where even the dog can’t make it outside in time. She can also pull off the kind of humour that country music is so frequently good at: “If I had a time machine/I would tell Jesus about Judas… (and) I would not marry you”. Katy’s voice is quite restrained and straightforward; frequently she sounds like she’s just telling you a tale over a cup of coffee, so her style is one that’s going to work its way into your affections over time as you come to appreciate her un-showy sincerity. On the back of this album there’s a new one on the way, a collaboration with Marty Atkinson that is supported by the same bunch of players that appear on this album. That will be well worth checking out as Paper Heartsdemonstrates that Katy Boyd’s really hitting her stride as a songwriter/performer.