Kim Beggs: Blue Bones
Hailing from Canada’s Yukon territory, hard-bitten mining country, this is Kim Beggs’ third album in a late burgeoning career that has brought her quite a lot of attention and acclaim. For this album she has enlisted the help of Vancouver’s Steve Dawson, slide guitar player and producer – and not to be confused with Chicago’s Steve Dawson of Dolly Varden fame. He has assembled a fine bunch of players to set the whole thing off and contributed some very stylish guitar playing himself.
The first thing to say is that Kim sings in a very light sing song way with an innocence of approach vaguely reminiscent of Iris de Ment and that at first pass this has the effect of making her music sound rather inconsequential. However, greater familiarity reveals the art in this apparent artlessness and her sound has been steadily creeping on me as I’ve grown to appreciate her individuality. Her own songs are far from inconsequential, dealing with everyday life as it is lived, from the chronicle of a working day in ‘Bring Out Your Bones’ to the sad regretful tribute she makes to her late adopted brother, who died young of cancer, in ‘Firewater Bones’ . Her lyrical approach is slightly elliptical so that you have to make some effort to join the dots but the lyric booklet supplied with this generously packaged album does contain some notes about the stories behind the songs, so that obviously helps.
There are four covers sitting amongst the nine original songs. Dylan’s ‘I’ll Be your Baby Tonight’ is relaxed to the point of indifference and I couldn’t connect with that at all, but Patty Griffin’s ‘Trapeze’ is quite affecting whilst ‘Just Someone I Used to Know’ features Gurf Morlix as Porter Waggoner to Kim’s Dolly Parton. There’s a whole handful of singers helping her out with the vocals across the album and the most successful is Natalie Edelson whose contralto harmonies fit Kim’s bright voice like the proverbial hand in a glove. They sound particularly effective together on ‘Longest Dream’; like all the best harmony singing there’s just the right amount of contrast to make the two voices together way more than the sum of their parts.
The overall sound is a relaxed, unforced country-ish sound that would fit quite a number of Americana/off-Nashville singers; I’ve already mentioned Steve Dawson’s playing but Chris Gestrin’s organ playing is equally elegant – enriching the sound without stomping all over it. I guess the stand out song is the ‘Can’t Drive Slow Yodel’ , a song that would suit Caitlin Rose with its self-deprecating humour and light heart. The tale she tells of learning to yodel whilst out alone on the Yukon River in a canoe really rings a bell for me;
a neighbour of mine with something of a singing career could be heard practising his stage voice alone in his boat, half a mile from shore.
Blue Bones has a gently insistent charm to it and Kim Beggs has a distinctive voice – a nice addition to the tapestry of North American music making.