The last ten years or so of music has brought about many revivals, punk, folk and thanks in part to the internet’s love of exploration, many classic sounds from Turkish folk music to Thai dub music. It’s not to say however that country ever went away, but perhaps in the indie scene it certainly played less of a vital role the last decade or so. But leading the way for the new country scene is none other than Gloucestershire born, Bristol based singer-songwriter Katy J Pearson (no relation as far as i’m aware). Debut album Return was written and recorded in the two and a half years after the fallout of a collaborative project with her brother, thanks to major label pressures. And produced by Ali Chant (P.J. Harvey, Perfume Genius), Pearson has crafted a delightfully vibrant modern country-pop outing.
Ask anyone and the key aspect of any great country song is the storytelling. Pearson’s is no exception. Opener “Tonight” tells the emotively captive story of a dancehall love affair between to uneasy souls. ” She said, “Do you wanna dance with me tonight?” He said yes, First I gotta tell you something, About me and I hope that you don’t mind, But my mind’s not feeling alright” she croons over the more than catchy melodies and punchy chords that drive the album straight into fifth gear. One of the greatest abilities that Pearson shows within her songwriting within this album is her proficiency in finding the joy in anyone. “You just need time to work out what you want, It could be a sign on the highway, A cloud in the Sky, Hey You, Get You, Get Through, You Got Things Going On” she proclaims on the indie-pop banger “Hey You”. This level of intimacy and humanity can be found throughout this album and is only amplified when things are stripped back on closer “Waiting For The Day” as her voice sways over a sparse guitar and hazy ambient sounds, a campfire like feeling in its purest form.
This variation in Pearson’s sonic palette allows this album to stand out from other contemporary indie country releases. Wether she’s incorporating an almost ska like riff on “Fix Me Up” or the electronic staccato chords and glistening soundscape of the opening segment of anthemic “Take Back The Radio”, which wouldn’t feel too out of place on Air’s classic debut Moon Safari. There’s of course the core elements of any country great, sweeping violins and horns which can be found spliced throughout, always just in time to add that extra bit of warming flavour. This diversity in Pearsons sound allows this album to stay fresh and surprising as it plays out, never settling on just one simple sound. There are moments when the instrumentation can perhaps take over from the songwriting like on “On The Road” where instrumental passages and solos sometimes take precedence over progressing the song, giving it a more “epic” sound, but its still a largely enjoyable prelude to the closing out the album.
Perhaps the greatest aspect of this album comes in the form of Pearson’s consistency in delivering standout chorus after standout chorus. Instantly memorable with catchy melodies. What more could you want from pop country? The chorus of “Fix Me Up” as Pearson sings “Because my right hand man does the best he can, But he can’t help if he don’t understand, So c’mon and fix me up” is delivered with an immeasurable amount of cool and confidence that it’ll be spinning around your head for days, be sure to add this one to the post lockdown throwdown playlist. And the aforementioned “Take Back The Radio” is Pearson’s call to arms for all the country singers out there, she wants to hear them “Take back the radio, and move along, switch off the radio, just sing a song”. Perhaps written as a self-motivator after her 7 month absence from songwriting, either way, it’s a certified pop hit that absolutely should take back the radio.
From years of touring and honing in of her sound, Pearson has fine tuned herself to craft an album bathed in Americana that sounds both nostalgic and fresh simultaneously. Look no further than Katy J Pearson if you wanna hear that exciting new voice on the block, because she certainly isn’t going anywhere anytime soon, if this album is anything to go by.