With this release, Hamilton-based Katie Bulley has delivered a set of songs that evoke the atmosphere indicated by the album’s title. As I have listened to this over the past week, coffee in hand, I have very much felt I was in the right place.
Whereas Bulley’s previous release “The Warhol Factory” primarily used electric guitar with programmed drum tracks, she has chosen to wield her acoustic guitar (with some harmonica on the side) for this, her third album – perfectly appropriate, again, for a coffeehouse ambience. The delicacy of acoustic playing is a perfect match for her songs this time around – songs of confused love (haven’t we all wanted to leave our partner behind on a highway at some point?), songs of traveling, songs of protest. “The Matador” is a particular highlight, offering a Spanish flamenco flair that grabs the listener’s attention.
Other songs on the album will appeal to a variety of listeners; “32-20 Blues” demonstrates that Bulley is as much at home with acoustic blues as she is with flamenco and other styles, and “Purple Hearts” allows her to wrestle with deeper political issues (again, evoking the sense of a coffeehouse as a place where weighty conversations can take place as easily as the more personal ones).
Bulley’s voice by turns is chiding, coaxing, convincing, and careening, but never out of control – it’s a remarkable instrument, and she is skilled at writing songs that uniquely showcase it.
As enjoyable as “The Warhol Factory” was (especially on clear vinyl – cool!), “Coffee House” marks a definite step forward for this talented young artist, and the acoustic instrumentation suits her songwriting quite well. I look forward to hearing her live at some point in the future, as well as to future releases.
“Coffee House” can be streamed on Katie Bulley’s website until 31 December 2016.