“Kisbee Ring” – Abby Posner

4 stars (out of 5)

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As we approach the end of this year’s meaningful album releases (obviously not including “Greatest Hits” packages and festive cash-ins), it’s not difficult to find a theme that runs through this year’s albums. The pandemic looms large either as subject matter for the songs or as the impetus to explore different ways of working. Either way, the impact’s impossible to ignore. Abby Posner dealt with the planetary and personal upheaval by creating this album almost single-handedly (with guest appearances from singers Mary Scholz and Fred Newhouse and fiddle player M’Gilvry Allen). Everything else is written, played, recorded and produced by Abby Posner.

About the title; I’ve saved people in the UK the hassle of spending 30 seconds on the internet to discover what it means. It’s a life buoy or ring buoy thrown to someone in distress in the water and it pulls together themes that suffuse the album; themes of stormy seas, of drowning, of rescues and emergencies. The eighteen months before the album’s release was a testing period for Abby Posner and its ten songs reflect the questions posed and the answers found during that period. The songs are intensely personal apart from one exception. I’ll come back to that later.

The musical stylings are restrained throughout the album, focusing the attention on Abby’s ethereal, haunting and often multi-layered lead vocal to enhance the lyrical messages. This approach is taken to its logical conclusion on the album’s closing song, “Digging Corners” which is stripped down to vocal and acoustic guitar to emphasise the message of two people opening themselves up to each other; the risk of hurt set against the hope of love. It’s a lovely positive message to close the album.

The title track is set against gently strummed guitar and acoustic piano and is shot through with disaster and recovery metaphors as well as contrasting physical and digital life – there’s no backup for real life, and no rewind. The quality of the songs and arrangements is consistently good across the album, with enough shifts of style and changes of tempo to keep the interest throughout. And there are even a couple of songs in triple time. Which brings us back to that one exception, “Blind Spots” (also in triple time); it’s a political song sitting amid the personal.

The song’s main focus is the murder of George Floyd. The blind spots of the title have a double meaning; the song starts by using blind spots in the driving sense while looking back instead of forwards before shifting the meaning to things that are plain to see, but we wilfully ignore or fail to see because they’re difficult to deal with. Although Trump isn’t mentioned, the bigotry and hate generated by populist campaigning and his Presidency have done lasting damage. It’s a cleverly-worked song with a powerful message that we need to heed. And that’s surely the final pandemic album of 2021.

“Kisbee Ring” is out now.

Here’s the Zoom-style video for “Blind Spots”:

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