Sunday, May 22, 2011

Kate Jacobs: "Home Game" (2011 Release) CD Review

Kate Jacobs' first album in seven years contains sweet and often touching songs of home life, as well as a great song about being on the road.

There is something instantly likable about Kate Jacobs' voice. It has an honest sweetness to it. Maybe that's also due to its having something of a young-girl quality. And it's partly because of that quality that these songs come off so well. It's also because of that quality that certain songs come as wonderful surprises, like "$55 Hotel," in which she tells a man that he "can just go to hell."

Home Game is the first CD Kate Jacobs has released in seven years. So what has she been up to these past seven years? These songs will tell you.

The majority of these songs are about raising her children. Actually, they're like love songs to her children, to her family. While not a children's album, the music on this CD was certainly inspired and shaped by her experiences starting a family.

All of these songs are originals, written by Kate Jacobs. ("Home Game" was co-written by Dave Schramm.)

"Rey Ordonez"

The album kicks off with "Rey Ordonez," a song which lovingly lists baseball players. All the players in this song were on The Mets in the 1990s: Jose Vizcaino, Carlos Baerga, Bobby Bonilla, Edgardo Alfonzo, and of course Rey Ordonez. She sings, "They were our friends on the radio."

First off, who doesn't love a woman who loves baseball? Okay, sure, the song is more about her band on the road late at night after a gig. But still, it's a treat for baseball fans. And when the song kicks in, it does so with such a joyous force that it's immediately a favorite. This is a song with the best pop sensibilities. "Rey Ordonez" is one of this CD's highlights.

The song ends with a snippet from a radio broadcast of a game, which mentions Ordonez.

"Home Game"

The title track, "Home Game," is a sweet and mellow tune. A love song to a child, in it Kate sings, "Little one, you are the one I was waiting for/Dreams come true sometimes." Even for those without children, this song can't help but tug at their emotions. And for those with children, this song should have a special significance.

This song feels like the end of a day, when the world becomes just one's immediate surroundings, one's home and family. It has that comforting sort of sound and vibe.

Drummer Paul Moschella's daughter Sophie is audible at the end of the song.

"Home Game" was written by Kate Jacobs and Dave Schramm.

"A Sligo Lad"

"A Sligo Lad" has a cool jazzy feel. And it contains references to William Butler Yeats and James Joyce. By the way, Sligo is a town in Ireland. Kate sings, "He's like this crazy Irish weather/Ever since we've been together/I just never know/How the wind will blow."

Kate's voice is especially adorable on this one.

"Jesus Has Been Drinking"
"Jesus Has Been Drinking" has a country feel, and a fun sense of humor. Plus, it has a Beatles reference, in the line, "He looks just like George Harrison on the cover of Abbey Road."

Here is a taste of the lyrics: "Everyone knows him as Jesus/But nobody knows him at all/His presence among us has pleased us/Til Jesus hit the wall."

"$55 Hotel"
A country-rock tune, "$55 Hotel," is a song about cheating. Well, it's actually about discovering that one's spouse has been cheating. Kate sings, "A lot of nights you've been working late/The kids and I get by/What I want to know is what kind of a hotel costs $55 a night."

This song has a wonderful exuberance, particularly in the chorus. It also has some great play on words, like the double meaning of "cheap" in "It's a pretty cheap way to say goodbye after seventeen years of 'I love you.'" This is one of the best tracks on the CD, and is an example of how this is not a children's record.

"Good Enough"
"Good Enough" is a sort of love song, about a not-so-perfect couple who manage to make it work. It includes both the male and female parts, and they sing, "If it’s good enough for you/it’s good enough for me/I never knew that making do could be just fine/And if it’s good enough for us/then darlin’ what’s the fuss?/Let’s call it love/It’s pretty good/Most of the time."

How is that for honesty in a love song? And listening to Kate's delightful voice, one gets the sense that this relationship has a much better chance of lasting than most.

Gene Turonis provides the male lead vocal part on "Good Enough."

"Time For Bed"

Home Game concludes with "Time For Bed," a short and somewhat goofy song about tucking the kids in and going to sleep. Kate sings, "Were sweeter words ever said/I wait all day just to hear somebody say/Isn't it time for bed."

CD Track List
  1. Rey Ordonez
  2. On My Monitor
  3. Home Game
  4. Make Him Smile
  5. A Sligo Lad
  6. Jesus Has Been Drinking
  7. $55 Hotel
  8. Love Comes And Goes
  9. Good Enough
  10. All The Time In The World
  11. Time For Bed

Musicians on this album are Kate Jacobs on guitar and vocals; James MacMillan on electric and acoustic bass, piano, organ and vocals; Paul Moschella on drums, percussion and vocals; and Dave Schramm on guitars, dobro, vibes, piano, organ and vocals.

Guest musicians include Andy Burton on piano and organ, Claudia Chopek on violin, Tanya Kalmanovich on viola, and Eleanor Norton on cello.

Home Game is scheduled to be released January 25, 2011 on Small Pond Music. This CD was produced by Dave Schramm. (Dave Schramm will be familiar to many as the lead guitarist for Yo La Tengo in the band's early years. He's also played with The Replacements, Freedy Johnston and Richard Buckner.)

Kate Jacobs has released four other albums, including The Calm Comes After (1993), What About Regret? (1995), Hydrangea (1998) and You Call That Dark (2004).

(Note: I originally posted this review on November 29, 2010.)

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