Kara Grainger

Kara Grainger
Shiver and Sigh

Eclecto Groove Records

By Tony Del Rey
October 2013

A sophisticated ear for music isn’t required for determining whether singer/guitarist Kara Grainger’s new disc, Shiver and Sigh will touch a wide audience. Given its decorously pretty pop-soul melodies, smoldering song arrangements and borderline–slick production, its no surprise the album is doing modest damage on blues radio charts. That’s small ‘taters compared to the fact that the disc’s title track is currently in heavy rotation at your local Starbucks. Heard it with my own ears.

So does this kind of exposure portend big things for Kara Grainger’s future? And does her association with the Starbuck’s brand anoint this Australian-born blues infant as the major crossover artist the genre has long waited for?

Her prospects certainly appear bankable: simmering good looks to go with a velveteen voice that melds pop’s youthful ambition with R&B’s easy grace. Yet, it is Grainger’s taut, expressive work on slide guitar that solidifies Shiver and Sigh as an unmistakably blues-oriented listening experience. It’s a feature of Grainger’s game that draws comparisons to the much-hallowed Bonnie Raitt.

Indeed, many of Shiver and Sigh’s 11 tracks are anchored in the same laid-back, mid-tempo groove that formed much of Raitt’s early-90s hit records. It’s no small coincidence that Grainger’s bass player, Hutch Hutchinson, appeared on both Nick of Time and Luck of the Draw.

The aforementioned title track, “Shiver and Sigh” is a melancholy pop-soul ballad written by Minneapolis-based musician and songwriter, Kevin Bowe. It’s an obvious choice for the album’s single. Grainger’s exquisite whisper-to-a-scream vocals nudge the tune’s slow-building melody along to greater heights, arriving at a new, up-turned modality for the chorus:

You’re the one I can’t hide from on the inside
You’re the one I can’t deny
You’re the one that keeps on shinin’ on the outside
But it’s rainin’ in my…
Too far gone to cry
I shut my eyes
Shiver and sigh

While songwriter Bowe’s moody lines do a first-rate job of conveying the ache that often comes with love’s emotions, the bottomed-out nature of his lyrics prove to be a recurring theme in Grainger’s own writing. Tracks like “Little Pack of Lies,” “Lost In You,” “I’m Not Ready” and “Shut Down” are all of a downhearted nature, and a stark reminder that Kara Grainger is very much a blues artist. Hope she’s not a drag to hang out with at Starbuck’s.

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