an album for 2020
EARTH FELT THE WOUND
words Kate Westbrook
music Mike Westbrook
THE GRANITE BAND
Kate Westbrook voice Roz Harding saxophones
Jesse Molins guitar Matthew North guitar
Billie Bottle bass guitar/voice
Mike Westbrook piano Coach York drums
produced by Jay Auborn
Hard on the heels of their ‘epic and ground-breaking’ Granite project, Kate and the Granite Band with producer Jay Auborn are back with a major new album. Recorded in Summer 2019 in the depths of the Devon countryside, mixed and mastered at dBs studios Bristol, Earth Felt the Wound deploys state-of-the-art recording to stunning effect and takes Kate and The Granite Band in a radically new direction.
Earth Felt the Wound - its title a quote from Milton’s Paradise Lost - is an album of extremes, from the intimate to the epic, from the tenderness of the Rossini ballad Once Upon a Time to the rock histrionics of Drowned in the Flood. It opens with with one of Westbrooks’ most lyrical songs The Streams of Lovely Lucienne and closes with the exuberant comedy of Rooster Rabelais. Elsewhere Kate’s lyrics examine the contemporary issues of climate change and threats to the planet. The song at the heart of the album, Storm Petrel takes its title from the tiny seabird that spends its life on the ocean, while beneath its dancing feet sea levels are rising.
Kate’s collaboration with Mike began with their jazz cabaret Mama Chicago, which won the Edinburgh Festival Fringe Award in 1978. There has followed a succession of music-theatre pieces, settings of European poetry, operas and original song cycles. Kate’s lyrics are often a response to contemporary social, cultural and environmental issues. A notable example is The Serpent Hit, a Political Fable, recorded in 2013, produced by the late Jon Hiseman. Granite, a composition inspired by her love of Dartmoor and its granite quarries, was recorded in 2018, her first collaboration with Jay Auborn. To perform it she brought together the group of highly individualistic, open-minded and ‘rock solid’ musicians who make up The Granite Band.
Kate Westbrook The Granite Band EARTH FELT THE WOUND
Westbrook Records WR 006
Information about the CD
supported by Airshaft Trust
and by Patrons of Earth Felt The Wound
world-wide distribution by Proper Music Distribution
Management Peter Conway firstname.lastname@example.org
available also from
Sid Smith, reviewing Granite in Prog Magazine commented on “the Westbrooks’ wilful disregard of pigeonholing”. The new album proves once again that Kate and composer Mike Westbrook don’t acknowledge musical boundaries.
photo: Sergio Amadori
Three Songs from Earth Felt The Wound
Threat of Natural Disaster
The Granite Band
also on YouTube
Once Upon A Time
also on YouTube
The Streams of Lovely Lucienne
The Granite Band
also on YouTube
Kate Westbrook returns with the Granite band that so powerfully debuted with the album of that name. But where Granite was an evocation of the terrifying beauty of Westbrook's beloved Cornwall, Earth Felt The Wound takes similar themes - of Nature huge, indifferent and mortally wounded by man - and expands them to epic, Miltonesque, scale.
The difference is most obviously pointed up in the treatment of Berlin's 'Let's Face the Music and Dance'. On Granite, the song closes the album in lyric style, Kate whistling winsome against found. birdsong and the echoing of a granite quarry. On Earth Felt the Wound it's the cry of a wound opening, a defiant yowl against the dying of the light, the last dance on the Titanic.
Not that this world and what we've done to it is without redemption, but consolation is buried full fathoms deep and is often a singular affair. Perhaps a Cinderella innocence will save us (a lovely live arrangement of a Rossini theme), perhaps a Rabelaisian lust for life, summed up in 'Rooster Rabelais'. But while lonesome seabirds skip and dance (Harding's squalling sax is most apposite on 'Storm Petrel'), the waters still mass around a drowning world - North keeps it apocalyptic with some Fripp-like chordings - while Coach York's drums crack hurricanoes.
Producer and engineer Auborn and Godfroy somehow summon, as they did on Granite, a world that is both sonically intimate, catching Westbrook's every breathy, wracked or rainbow sweet intonation yet also quarry wide in its range of dynamics. Tlhe title of course comes from Milton's Paradise Lost, wherein the best tunes notoriously went to the Devil.
Well, Kate Westbrook just gave him some more.
Andy Robson - Jazzwise
Is it really two years since Kate Westbrook’s last record Granite came out? Reviewing that record, I suggested that its music, lyrics and performance sat as easily within art or progressive rock as within jazz. But then the Westbrooks’ ability to cross boundaries has always been one of their greatest strengths.
Earth Felt the Wound is a further such case in point. Even for long-standing fans, the breadth of their musical world and determination to explore new territory will continue to surprise and delight. Drawing from the pool of West Country-based musicians that form the Westbrooks’ Uncommon Orchestra, this is very much a band of sisters and brothers – a happy few, indeed. What you get here is a complete package. Every detail has been attended to and got just right.
From the bossa nova of the opening The Streams of Lovely Lucienne to the rock-blues of Bathing Belles and Fiscal Analysts and Drowned in the Flood, music and lyrics move across landscapes of concern and affiliations, lamenting the beauty of a natural world under threat. There is a novelistic quality to several of these songs. Lucienne seems to contrast the innocence of childhood with the growing uncertainties of adolescence in its protagonist, while Rooster Rabelais is an Aesop-like fable. Threat of Natural Disaster is repeated in a French translation with different music and succeeds in linking the Westbrooks’ enthusiasms for fine art (Kate is a remarkably gifted painter), Rossini, landscape and the natural world. Its setting of Altdorf connects Rossini – the village built a theatre for a performance of his opera, William Tell – and J.M.W. Turner, who painted Storm in the St. Gotthard Pass and Little Devil’s Bridge nearby.
But the way the music is structured here is also intriguing. The sound is often quite compressed. The twin guitars of Matthew North and Jesse Molins form a middle strata, with the rhythm section of Mike Westbrook on keys, Billie Bottle on bass guitar and piano and Coach York on drums forming the bedrock, leaving the voice of Kate and saxophone of Roz Harding to tell the story of sediment and the passage of time. This is no more evident than on the three tracks that form a kind of triptych towards the record’s end.
First up is an apocalyptic Let’s Face the Music and Dance, its emphasis definitely on “trouble ahead” and with some excellent, doom-laden drums from York. Storm Petrel follows. Perhaps the finest track on a fine album, its music swells and swirls over driving rhythms from York and Bottle, with Harding offering a fittingly avian soprano solo. Finally, Rossini’s Once Upon a Time with just Kate’s voice and Billie Bottle on piano offers a sense of closure, as its subject rejects pomp and beauty in favour of innocence and virtue. In a way, the song harks back to the opening The Streams of Lovely Lucienne – innocence is restored.
Rooster Rabelais closes the album with darkly anthropomorphic good humour and a healthy dose of the blues, with Harding’s soprano again taking an ornithological turn. A fitting ending to this rainbow of music and words. Beautifully produced, performed and packaged, Earth Felt the Wound, if anything, improves upon its excellent predecessor.
Duncan Heining - London Jazz News