Blues from down under? Who knew? I didn’t, but when I hear Kara Grainger’s new album Living Your Ghost. I was sold. A solid album – 12 tracks, and every track addictive. No filler, no easy outs, no compromises. Living With A Ghost shows the tremendous growth of an already super-talented artist and wall-to-wall extraordinary music.
Kara put her heart and soul into each song and it shows. She kicks off with the title track’s acoustic downbeat and big guitar sound that takes you through a deep-in-your-heart journey with a slide guitar and wailing electric lighting up the road signs. But once you are there, she turns you right around and takes you back in “Working My Way Back Home”, her urgent voice highlighted by B-3 sharps and more big, big guitar blues notes. “Man With A Soul”, written with Trevor Manear, dips into country blues with a danceable backbeat and in-your-face vocals with a touch of seduction and Grainger’s glowing guitar riffs.
Things lighten up with “Nowhere to Be Found” and “You Are in New Orleans” which take us to the country blues/Americana side of Granger. The most intriguing song on the album is “Reason to be my Verse”, self-aware in the lyrics and a gentle heart tug in the melodies – except for the curl in her Down Under voice that keeps the tension just below the surface as the melody soars toward the final verse. My favorite is “Favorite Sin”, written with Julia King and guitarist/producer Anders Osborne, a song that starts out with an almost punk high energy down-low strum and shifts into a rollicking, dance-inducing blues-rock powerhouse. Listen on earphones with a long flexible cord and lots of space around your body.
“Nobody But You” brings us back down to introspection and love, motivated by J.J.Johnson’s precise delicate drumming, then morphs into the equally romantic but more beat-centric “Love Will Get You Through the Door”. Easily the most addictive song on a very habit-forming album. The song follows blues-rock form but Grainger’s determined yet feminine voice pulls you in to each verse and her restrained guitar pyrotechnics at the end of the lines keeps you there. Wow!
Grainger leaves you wondering and vibrating with the final track, “Freedom Song”, her slide guitar creating a mysterious environment that swirls like dark smoke as she conjures the freedom to come and go as she pleases, even in love. If she hadn’t told me differently, I would swear she sold her soul to the devil at a country crossroads to summon the guitar spirits that inhabit this song. Astonishing.
Kara Grainger was born and raised in Australia but now lives in Los Angeles while she plays around the country and the world. She started her professional career at 16 already an accomplished blues guitarist and singer, forming a band with her brother Mitch which toured Australia and produced two studio albums. The world changed in 2008 when she signed to an Australian label that sent he to LA to record her debut solo album, “Grand and Green River “. The album charted and the rest of the world got to know this young Aussie woman whose guitar-playing is incendiary, whose lyrics are straight from heart of America, and whose voice can vibrate from seductive to chilling in a single verse.
Her first solo album stayed in the top 30 of the Americana Charts for 38 straight weeks. Living with Your Ghost is her fourth album and should top the charts for at least as long. It is the best thing she has ever done – the work of a nascent superstar now fueled up on the launch pad and ready for liftoff.