M'carver, Kimberly : Hard Waltz
(Professionally Duplicated CD)
Kimberly M'Carver's Hard Waltz: Purist Country Songwriting, Brilliant Voice - Houston songwriter Kimberly M'Carver has a voice that will very gently knock you out. It's sort of a cross between Emmylou Harris and vintage Dolly Parton, with all the nuance of the former and the sweetness of the latter. M'Carver can sing clear and pure as a country spring, or turn up the vibrato at the end of a phrase for an especially heartbroken edge. True to it's title, most of her latest album Hard Waltz, is oldschool, purist country music, with several numbers in 3/4 time. Being a strong songwriter, M'Carver had no problem pulling together an amazing band to back her this time around, including but not limited to co-producer/guitarist Scott Neubert, singer Claire Lynch, Little Big Town bassist John Thomasson, GreenCards fiddler Eamon McLoughlin and Elvis Costello accordionist Jeff Taylor. Fans of hard country will love this. The title track opens the album with a lush bed of acoustic guitars and an accordion solo that hands off to a pennywhistle - it's very Emmylou with a little Celtic edge. M'Carver picks up the pace with the catchy newgrass tune Bliss Creek and then brings it down again with the sweet, sad waltz You Say That You're Leaving. 'Promises bend, souls they grow thristy and love stories end,' she laments before the gorgeous blend of fiddle and pedal steel kicks in on the chorus. Teardrops and Wine sounds like it's pretty self-explanatory, but it's not that simple, and the way M'Carver slides up to a note on the second chorus will give you chills. Rodeo Clown was inspired by M'Carver's second cousin, who is the genuine item - but the song casts the singer in the role of someone who's 'always there to pick you up when you're knocked down.' It's a neat twist. Devil or Fool, with it's slow-burning, blues-drenched slide guitar, makes a start contrast, taking it's inspiration from M'Carver's many trips to Sugar Land prison to visit her brother, who was in for drugs and a probation violation. It Never Gets Easy, a straight-up, backbeat country song with some memorable lead guitar, steel and fiddle work, ponders a frustrating relationship where 'the heat of your touch turned everything else cold.' Redemption, with it's resigned blend of country gospel and Tex-Mex, takes a haunting look at dead-end despair and alienation and draws inspiration from the suicide of M'Carver's first husband. It contrasts with the next track, There's Always Sorry, a make-up song set to electric highway rock with a sizzling, spiraling guitar lead. The album winds up with the gentle, jazz-tinged countrypolitan waltz Will You Show Me The Stars - dedicated to M'Carver's astrophysicist husband of the last 25 years - and the vivid, picturesque post-breakup ballad Another Goodbye waltz, something that Lucinda Williams would be proud to have written. M'Carver has several other purist albums to her credit and has toured with Jim Lauderdale; if she ever makes it up to NYC, you'll hear about it here. By delarue, New York Music Daily Hard Waltz ... This is M'Carver's fourth collection of original material and her first in 12 years, and it can only enhance her climb to recognition. Her music is born of the best of country songwriting: honest, personal tales never clogged with easy sentiment or self-pity. The album opens with a title track that will convince you of M'Carver's prodigious talent; Celtic-flavored with a haunting accordion and whistle accompaniment, it will linger with you long after the fade-out. 'Devil or Fool' was inspired by the visits she paid to her brother in prison. The album's standout, 'You Say That You're Leaving,' is a genuine tearjerker. We've all been there; we just need someone to tell it and sing it right. The album closes with a good ole country waltz, 'Another Goodbye,' leaving the listener grateful for their time with M'Carver. One can only hope that the fame and regard due her is finally ushered in by this stellar set of originals. Robert Myers, Elmore Magazine Hard Waltz (4 stars) - With a timbre tailor-made for hymns on Sunday and a quaver decidedly Parton-esque, Houston-based Kimberly M'Carver's vocals are a match made in Country Heaven for her true-to-the-roots lyrics and melodies. Strong tracks on this, her fourth release, include 'Teardrops and Wine,' 'You Say That You're Leaving,' and 'It Never Gets Easy.' First-rate fretwork is abundant, much of it from Ms. M'Carver's co-producer, multi-instrumentalist Scott Neubert. Accordion provides a Celtic touch on the title track and adds to the charm of an unexpected pop ballad, 'Will You Show Me The Stars,' co-written by sideman Eric Korb. Duane Verh, Roots Music Report Hard Waltz (4 stars) - Back in 1989, the intent of Music City was to focus on Austin musicians but that didn't even last the first year because country folk singer-songwriter Kimberly M'Carver came in from Houston, knocked me out with both her live show and Breathe the Moonlight (Philo, 1990, incidentally Rounder's last LP) and claimed the cover of #11. M'Carver has cast a similar spell over so many music writers, Texan, national and international, all competing with each other to up the superlatives, that if you were to go by her press kit, you'd assume that she's a star you've somehow overlooked. However, while they think well of her in Houston, M'Carver never broke through like, say Nanci Griffith, with whom she's often, though I think erroneously, compared (in my 1990 story, I quoted another singer-songwriter as saying, 'M'Carver sings better, writes better, looks better and is a nicer person than Nanci Griffith,' and that still sounds about right). This may, as I've seen speculated, be partly due to the fact that, over 23 years, she's only put out four albums, the last 12 years ago, but the upside of this rather sparse discography is that they're all superb, especially Cross The Danger Line (2001) and this one, on both of which she and Scott Neubert took over production, with Neubert also playing sensational mandolin, acoustic, electric and slide guitars, pedal steel and dobro, along with harmony vocals (Claire Lynch does some lovely harmony work too). Most review of M'Carver's albums, including mine, start with The Voice, several writers giving her an edge over Emmylou Harris let alone Nanci Griffith, then move on to her intimate lyrics (a few to the red hair and green eyes), this time all original, with a couple of co-writes, a double whammy that, if nothing else, shows how little influence an entire regiment of music writers has on the real world. John Conquest, 3rd Coast Music M'Carver's fourth album, it's a no-frills, perfectly produced, largely acoustic set that should fit comfortably on your trad-country shelf next to Dolly Parton ... absent of any pickup trucks, shotguns, or crossover-pop ambitions, Hard Waltz requires little more than M'Carver's pristine soprano to carry it home ... Chris Gray, Houston Press There are enough well-crafted, real country tears on Kimberly M'Carver's new Hard Waltz to fill the late-night dance floor at one of those old honky-tonk halls out on the edge of town ... Tom Geddie, Buddy Magazine Anyone who's ever experienced the country folk of Houston singer-songwriter Kimberly M'Carver knows that she believes in symbolism. For her, train whistles are synonymous with loneliness, and a city like 'Santa Fe' drowns with spirituality ... On the cover of her latest album, 'Cross The Danger Line,' she has stunning long hair the color of a red fox and green eyes. In person her stare is even more penetrating ... one realizes how thin the line is between stardom and the search for it. A listen to 'Cross The Danger Line' makes one wonder why some promoter hasn't helped her cross it ... Combining a mix of Nanci Griffith country-folk modernism and Loretta Lynn blue-collar strength, M'Carver has forged a collection of songs and performances that most country artists would love to call their own ... [Brent] Truitt's fluttering mandolin harmony helps M'Carver and guest vocalist Jim Lauderdale make 'Death and Texas' the type of tongue-in-cheek country Emmylou Harris might indulge in ... Michael D. Clark, Houston Chronicle A sitting-on-the-beach-house-porch-in-a-breezy-sunset ambience ... M'Carver's voice covers the same full-throated range that Emmylou Harris's does, but has a sweeter, more - dare we say it - 'dulcet' tone, and here she applies it lovingly to seven originals and three covers, including Greg Trooper's 'Ireland' and Van Zandt's underappreciated late-period gem 'Niles River Blues,' ... M'Carver shows clearly with Danger Line that she no longer needs label help in putting out first-rate stuff ... John Nova Lomax, Houston Press If at some date in the future some industrious independent filmmaker decides to do the EmmyLou Harris story, don't be surprised if Kimberly M'Carver stars as Ms. Harris... she's certainly got the voice. Only M'Carver's may be an even purer voice than Harris's, a voice with wider range and uncannily perfect pitch and tone ... Ms. M'Carver has a Hall of Fame voice, one of those rare vocal instruments most artists would kill to have ... her songwriting just keeps reaching new heights. The fact that her 'Death and Texas' isn't being heard across the radio dial in Houston is another sign that the district attorney needs to investigate some of these local programmers who keep claiming they play 'The Songs of Texas' or 'The Sounds of Texas' or whatever their latest fraudulent false-advertising buzz-phrase is. Or else it proves that the County Health Examiner needs to offer free hearing aids to the obviously impaired radio programmers in town. Come on, people, listen up. We've got a winner here right in our midst and her name isn't Shania or Martina or Faith! ... ROCKZILLAWORLD, Americana & Texas Reviews M'Carver is such a sweet, heart-grabbing singer and accomplished songwriter ... Her new 'Cross the Danger Line' is simply one of the finest Americana albums of 2001... Daniel Gewertz, Boston Herald There's a lot of blurring going on these days between the once-rigid categories of country, folk, pop and rock into what's variously known as "roots music" or Americana. M'Carver typifies this trend; with a clear passionate voice that's often compared to Emmylou Harris and knack for punchy sellf-mocking lyrics that recalls the best of Loretta Lynn, she still has the soulful looks and acoustic matrix of the classic folk performer... Take the lyrics to Fix'n Paint a song built around the image of a battered barroom chair that came to M'Carver in a dream. It's a bleak tune that speaks about morning-after disillusionment: It's as world-weary as anything Waylon or Willie ever did, but there's a literary quality to M'Carver's work that elevates it above the pork rinds and pickups ... Mike Norton, Traverse City Record-Eagle, Michigan When it comes to country-folk, few can compete with Kimberly M'Carver ... When one listens to the first three songs' Death and Texas, Return to Me, and Santa Fe' of Cross the Danger Line, he or she knows that M'Carver has hit upon the right approach: a hot band and superb song choices topped by her expressive voice, confident and comfortable ... Both Santa Fe and Sweetest Surrender have the feeling of classics ... For those who have copies of M'Carver's first two albums, no prodding will be needed to pick up a copy of her latest effort. For those unfamiliar, Cross the Danger Line will be a good place to start one's love affair with this fine country-folk artist ... All Music Guide (****) The Houstonite's soprano could have been developed by NASA; light and delicate as gossamer, strong and flexible as titanium, a marvelously nuanced instrument that, for all it's gentleness and elegance, effortlessly dominates the proceedings ... she does it live as well. M'Carver could well have achieved commercial success simply as a diva, but she's also a remarkable songwriter, whose folk-country has a similar dichotomy, combining poignant vulnerability with cool self-assurance. After a seven year interval, her third album, with eight originals informed by much musical and life experience and gorgeous covers of Greg Trooper's Ireland and Townes Van Zandt's Niles River Blues, is poised to garner even more critical acclaim than her much lauded Rounder albums, Breathe The Moonlight and Inherited Road, and rightfully so ... John Conquest, 3rd Coast Music, Austin Texas (****) Think the clear voice of Dolly Parton, shifted down a step or so, and the big-eye flowing-hair mystique of Stevie Nicks, also ratcheted down a couple notches, and you have the aura of Houston singer-songwriter M'Carver. On her latest, the former Rounder artist releases three covers and seven originals that oscillate nicely between a pristine bluegrass and an edgy Texas sound. Backed up by first-rate Nashville-based musicians including Viktor Krauss, Aubrey Haynie and Scott Neubert, the album's co-producer, M'Carver renders polished covers of 'Return to Me' and Townes Van Zandt's 'Niles River Blues.' Her originals range from tender to tough: slower numbers like 'Santa Fe' and 'Sweetest Surrender' ... have radio-ready melodies ... In her faster, Texas-tinged numbers, however, M'Carver exercises her country musician's right to employ extended puns. 'There are certain things in life,' she sings, 'death and Texas ... and another man's wife' ... Country Standard Time, On the Record Four long years ago on from Breathe tbe Moonlight, M'Carver returns with a veritable tour de force of melody and magic. The Waiting was truly worthwhile. Welcome home ... Brum Beat (Great Britain) The best of the Texas singer-songwriters had better not look back, because newcomer M'Carver is gaining on them. In a well-populated field, she is a cinch to make a respectable impact with this album... M'Carver's voice is full of innocence and emotion, the perfect vehicle for her poignant lyrics ... The Blade, Toledo OH M'Carver expresses power and angst and weaves a story line much as Harry Chapin once did ... Burlington County Times, Willingboro NJ The pairing of Philo and M'Carver produced the Breathe tbe Moonlight debut, which drew a round of raves for the Emmylou-like clarity of M'Carver's pipes and the syrnpathetic realism of her songs - qualities abundantly represented on M'Carver's follow-up, Inherited Road . M'Carver's got one hell of a way with words, and if a picture is worth a thousand of 'em, these tunes are closer to portraits than stories. Musically, she ranges from country-ish ditties to waltzes to border-flavored laments with an ease that tells you just how unhappy M'Carver must have once been cranking out Madonna at a bar mitzvah. You can't really say, as is traditional in such circumstances, that this new disc fulfills the promise of the first one, because the debut sprung forth so fully realized. All you can say is that here's more of a good thing ... Brad Tyer, Houston Press Kimberly M'Carver's voice is as sweet and magical as your first kiss. Her music delicately lingers in the air with a comforting and intimate familiarity. A tender rustic artist with a classic style ... Songwriter's Monthly, PA If there's one thing Texas songwriters learn, it's how to tell a good story. On her second aibum, HoIuston's Kimberly M'Carver proves she's learned that lesson well with a low-key set of tunes that could easily be adapted into a tri!ogy of one-act plays.... M'Carver's lyrics are simultaneously conversational and poetic -- an irresistible blend -- and her wounded soprano is the perfect instrument for spinning these yarns.... Like any good artist (in any field), M'Carver aims for the heart, not the charts, and she consistency hits her mark ... New Country Magazine For months I'd been hearing the name. Then I heard not only the voice, but the words it invoked, and I knew I was hearing something very special. M'Carver's Inherited Road is so full of that Texas border country-folk flavor that one should qualify for frequent flyer miles to that region after just a few listens. The title cut tells you right off the bat where M'Carver is coming from, and what follows leaves no doubt as to where she's heading. 'This Cold Night' and 'Blue Norther' serve up that perfect blend of country-meets-bluegrass, with superb backing by Jerry Douglas & Stuart Duncan. But if you're looking for that one killer tune to hook you instantly, head for 'Waiting' and M'Carver will remove any hesitation. 'Alimentar Mi Alma' could also do for Americana what 'Mi Vida Loca' has done for country. Inherit this one soon ... Gavin Report, Americana Chart Texas produces rowdy honky-tonkers, straight-up traditionalists, and spinners of tales. Kimberly M'Carver falls squarely into the arms of the latter, writing about moments so clearly that you feel like you've been transported across time and space. Like Nanci Griffith, M'Carver shies from profound statements of life, love, and other sweeping emotional vistas. Instead, she recalls the spirit of her preacher grandfather on Inherited Road, the uncertainty of another's intentions on 'Midnight Angel,' and the alienation of modern living on 'This Cold Night'. Largely acoustic, M'Carver's musicial spirit soars on the wings of bluegrass-inflected folkabilly ... she breathes an intimacy that suggests Alison Krauss, gives vocal interpretations worthy of vintage Dolly Parton, and provides just a touch of the border romance that has set Tish Hinojosa apart from the crowd. But M'Carver is, more importantly, her own woman - and Inherited Road shows an artist who knows where she's from, who has a strong sense of where she's going, and a willingness to go the distance to seek what will ultimately be a voice that's distinctly hers ... CD Review M'Carver's writing is every bit as engrossing as her voice. Her songs have a a touch of Texas twang, with the instrumentation of a modern country band. Her work surpasses that of many better-known country singers, and it is a mystery as to why so few people have yet to hear her. This is a great opportunity to hear an artist who we should hear much more of ... Victory Music Review Sometimes storytelling songwriters aren't the darlings of critics. Harry Chapin certainly wasn't, but he sure could spin a yarn that would last for years in your memory. In that folk country vein now called Americana, Kimberly M'Carver fits into that mold, except that her voice is even better than Chapin's and her music a bit more interesting. She is from Dallas and there's a lot of Texas in these dozen tales, but the story lines can touch anyone, regardless of geographical location ... If you're looking for a pretty face and beautiful voice in roots-folk music, give thls one a try ... Herald Bulletin, IN A startling debut effort ... a refreshing, unpolluted collection of downhome, touching tales...an album of solid songs. All of M'Carver's yarns sound like real stories about real people. The album's poignant opener, 'Silver-Wheeled Pony', guarantees to make even the most jaded of heart soften up inside ... The Austin Chronicle, Austin TX Superb debut album ... At once lilting and saddening, Breathe tbe Moonlight is a radiant collection that bears -- even demands -- repeated listening and rewards the same with hauntingly nuanced performances ... Ft. Worth Star-Telegram Ft. Worth TX Breathe the Moonlight sticks to familiar musical territory, but M'Carver makes it all seem brand new ... a strong voice that avoids the plaintive tone common to her sister musicians. Although she's inevitably compared to Nanci Griffith, Sara Hickman, and other Texas predecessors, the Dallas native seems to hold her own ... The Daily Texan, Austin TX Waterford crystal? As both singer and songwriter, M'Carver's silky combination of delicacy and strength rather inspires flowery metaphor. I've remarked before, but it bears repeating, that she somehow creates a still, serene space round her gentle, elegant vocals and the fragile poetry of her songs, floating effortlessly clear of her instrumental accompaniment, and this is true in live performances as well as on record ... Music City News, Austin TX Here's acoustic folk-country in Texas singer-songwriter style showcasing the sweetest clearest voice since Emmylou first fried you ... I'll call it downhome, pure, rural music -- fragile and exquisite... unbearably superb songs... Kimberly's a major songwriting talent, and the eleven on show here place her at the top level of the very fine current crop of Texas composers ... Folk Roots, England M'Carver has an excellent, clear, very expressive voice which she uses to great advantage to convey the mood of her lyrics. Her presentation is so in-touch with the meaning of her songs, I'd wager that listeners who do not understand the English language will be able to feel the mood of each track nevertheless ... Breathe the Moonlight is an impressive first album in all respects ... Dirty Linen, Baltimore MD.