KT Tunstall returns with her fourth album, sliced directly down the middle as reality hits and sadness trickles out.
Long gone is the stomping “Woo Hoo” - that Black Horse and a Cherry Tree vigour that Tunstall is most famed for, in singles like Suddenly I See and Under The Weather. A country and folk influence now lives where the fast-paced, folk/rock chords of Tunstall used to be.
Much of the album was recorded in two sessions at two different times. Tunstall arrived in the Arizona desert in early 2012 with a handful of songs to record with Howe Gelb of alt country act Giant Sand. Halfway through making the album, she raced back to the UK following her adoptive father’s sudden death. Simultaneously, her four-year marriage to her former drummer ended, culminating in divorce earlier this year. This release documents both circumstance changes at opposite ends.
The two halves idea, however odd of an album title it is to look at, is significant on different levels; the past and the present KT; a father/daughter relationship and a husband/wife one; a literal death and a figurative death; the harsh reality of St. Andrews, Scotland and the warm, eeriness of Tucson, Arizona.
It’s not entirely clear which songs were written before or after these two transformative events took place. It is clear that the first half of the album focuses on morality, with soft and sweet tracks like Made of Glass and Old Man layered with memories and childhood imagery as the singer responds and reacts to her father’s death.
The mid-way track of this album feels the most important. Yellow Flower is beautifully pared back and straddles the two sides. It’s an honest three-minute lullaby, packed with delicate imagery and backed by a soft and eerie tinkling of minor chords. Many of the tracks showcase just how great a songwriter Tunstall is without the glitz and glam of the charts, awards and a rock ‘n roll lifestyle.
The second half gives lead single Feel It All two outings; the original being far superior and rawer than the radio edit at the close. It’s described as the “ethereal” side of the album and has a higher emotional light and contemplative nature.
This release is imperfect; you can hear and feel the flaws. It’s not balanced; there’s no upbeat ditty to ballad ratio. It’s not for everybody. It takes patience to sit through a grieving and slow-moving album like this. She lays herself bare in her most honest release to date and swims in sadness, emerging from it a new person. It’s absolutely worthy of a dip.