After spending several years thriving in Austin’s local club scene, Texas native Kat Edmonson moved her infectious, jazzy twang to Brooklyn, New York, beyond the fundamental and but indispensable learning experience of small venue performing. Her characteristic vocals have seen her land touring opportunities with several well-established acts such as Chris Isaak, Gary Clark Jr. and Michael Kiwanuka, as well as sharing the stage with fellow Texan Lyle Lovett on The Tonight Show With Jay Leno. Edmonson seriously impressed with her 2012 album Way Down Low, hailed as “fresh as a spring bouquet” and “one of the greatest vocal albums I’ve ever heard” by the New York Times and The Boston Globe respectively, and is backing this accomplishment up with third effort The Big Picture.
While The Big Picture remains musically timeless, the songstress’ approach to song writing adds a freshness to its deep-rooted influences. Edmonson is at her vocal best in opener Rainy Day Woman, whose heartbroken, aching lyrics allow her unique, haunting vocals to excel. While there’s a nasal quality to her tone, Edmonson’s voice possesses a vivacity and sensuality that creates an appeal, which continues on the dangerously inviting You Said Enough. The 70s-inspired grooves of its ensemble and saxophone solo, paired with punctures of skilful falsetto, create an almost femme fatale aura around the singer.
The pop-inspired Avion, coupled with the contemporary folk sound of All The Way, creates diversity at the album’s midpoint, while the sliding steel guitars of Crying betray Edmonson’s Texan heritage. Edmonson’s expert scatting in the playful, swing track The Best contrasts well with Dark Cloud’s languid, modern jazz arrangement.
Oh My Love returns to influences drawn from the down-tempo, jazz standards prevalent on her 2009 debut. Its stripped back arrangement is pointedly slowed and simple until wintery, Christmas-time strings take over. It is here though, that Edmonson’s distinctive twang becomes somewhat harder to listen to, rather than charmingly quirky.
Kat Edmonson has certainly created an assured identity around her unique voice. While it doesn’t quite have the sultry gravel of Billie Holiday, or the incredible purity of Ella Fitzgerald, it is inimitably and admirably her own. Although I recognise her musicality, song writing ability and vocal talent, I don’t always find her focused, somewhat nasal tone entirely attractive. If Edmonson’s voice does continuously appeal to an individual, however, they will be undeniably besotted with The Big Picture.