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Katie Thompson - Single Review: Alcohol and Pills

16 Jul 2019 // A review by jacindaeve

After an 8 year hiatus, folk singer Katie Thompson has returned to recorded music with her soon to be released third album Bittersweet. Teasing the album release, Thompson has released the first single Alcohol and Pills, a cover of a 1997 original by Fred Eaglesmith. Stepping out from her previous pop-oriented sound, Alcohol and Pills is a wistful ballad beautifully suited to Thomspon’s dreamy voice. 

Recording a cover is always a challenge as you have to strike a balance between what you love in the original, while also bringing something new. You stand to gain more attention from lovers of the original and stand on the shoulders of accomplished songwriters, but also risk being criticised in direct comparison. Eaglemith’s original features haunting pedal steel beneath a raw and uncompromisingly human vocal. It’s not perfectly in tune. The performances aren’t perfect - and yet this is where the magic hides. 

Thompson’s rendition features Neil Young-esque guitars, harmonica, and programmed-feeling drums. Her vocal performance has been informed by Eaglesmith’s original, but has been buried under reverbs and overdubs, which conceals the natural, unadulterated sound of her voice. This is a shame, as what we can hear hints at a lovely tone and vocal maturity. The instrumental parts are well performed and interesting, but there is none of the push and pull that a band playing together will create. The parts layer up and clutter the song. In particular, the harmonica lacks restraint; never giving space to another instrument or even the vocal. The result is a song which sounds good, but there’s no magic. 

Despite the peculiarities intrinsic to playing a cover, Alcohol and Pills may be Thompson’s strongest offering to date. It seems to me that Thompson is a vocalist on the cusp of finding her own voice. I am interested to see if the originals on her upcoming album will better reveal Thompson as an artist and performer.

Stay tuned for the full album release Bittersweet, due early September 2019

Rating: ( 4 / 5 )

About Katie Thompson

Katie was nominated for Female Artist of the Year at the NZ Country Music Awards 2011 and recently won the right to open for Elton John at his only New Zealand concert in Dunedin.

Visit the muzic.net.nz Profile for Katie Thompson


Year: 2019
Type: Album
Year: 2011
Type: Album
Tall Poppy
Year: 2009
Type: Album

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