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Katy Rose BennettKaty Rose Bennett
Album: Songs Of The River Rea
Label: Self Released
Tracks: 11
Website: http://www.katyrosebennett.com

A former BBC Young Folk Award finalist, Birmingham-based Katy Rose Bennett's been around the s/s scene for close on 15 years now. Between 2002 and 2009 she released three idiosyncratic though satisfying albums under the cryptic near-acronym of KTB, while from 2006 to 2008 she'd also been a (founding, but short-lived) member of the rootsy all-female quartet Little Sister. In the intervening years, Katy built a career as a music therapist and leads the One Voice choir for people with acquired brain injuries; she got married, and her life-partner and therapy co-director gave birth two years ago. Now Katy's songwriting can take centre stage once again, she's back out there, and using her own name for the first time on this set of sophisticated and yet entirely accessible new songs that represent more than just Katy's own personal musical therapy. It was originally intended to document the songs she'd written before the aforementioned birth, but (as is the way of these things!) the project rapidly gained momentum and expanded to include more recent compositions too.

Katy herself describes the album as "about growing up, learning how to be in my own skin and looking out at the place where I live: in the middle of a city but surrounded by green space and nature along the river Rea". Plenty of autobiog, then - but this is poles removed from pretentious navel-gazing. Katy's tenderly precise, attractively poised singing voice guides the listener through her enchanting songs by way of a varied set of musical experiences that ranges from gentle, if ultimately poignant seasonal reflection (Cold November Day) and touching love songs One More Time and My Friend (the latter even blessed with a catchy singalong chorus) through to a pair of lovely observational songs - Soul In The Soil, an affectionate portrait of Katy's grandmother, and Jack And Ivy which tells the tale of her former neighbours. Further upbeat, there's the tongue-in-cheek railway-journey rumination Counting Kettles and the charmingly whispersome and self-effacing self-portrait Fried Green Tomatoes (at the Whistle Stop café, naturally!), rising to the delectably snare-brushed country-style lurve-and-romance of Rusted Ring and the busy, jostling Afro-beat vibe of One Day. The album's final section sways companionably into optimism embracing the spirit of encouragement to positive attitude We'll Keep Trying and the sheer joy of Driving Home from the hospital after her son's birth.

Katy Rose Bennett is magic, and her songs are of exquisitely crafted quality, but here, with help from her brother Joe (of The Dreaming Spires) they're brought onto an even higher plane through carefully configured, genuinely interesting arrangements involving friends and family - Phill Ward (guitar), Hannah Rhodes (vocals), Mike Monaghan (drums), Robin Bennett (flute) and C.J. Hillman (pedal steel). Songs From The River Rea is a confident and thoroughly likeable return to the fray from Katy.

David Kidman