Katherine Priddy ‘The Eternal Rocks Beneath’ CD (Navigator) 5/5

Over the past three years, Birmingham based singer-songwriter Katherine Priddy has quietly been building a following across the UK with her captivating performances, showcasing her distinctive, imaginative and enchanting songs. I first came across her music in 2018 with the self-released EP “Wolf”. Immediately struck by the genuine quality of what I was listening to, I couldn’t help but think back to years gone by and how I felt when I made such wonderful discoveries; listening for the first time to the likes of Nick Drake, Leonard Cohen and John Martyn. Fast forward to 2021 and I’m listening to Priddy’s full-length debut, “The Eternal Rocks Beneath”. Two years in the making, recorded at Rebellious Jukebox Studios, a little basement studio hidden beneath inner-city Birmingham and presided over by masterful producer Simon Weaver, even after hearing that EP three years ago, I couldn’t have imagined that what I’m listening to now would be as astonishingly imperious as it is.

For one so young, Priddy’s songs are so mature. Musically and lyrically, she has that rare gift of bringing her stories to life within the music she makes. I can’t tell you how refreshing it is to hear such a natural talent perform a set of songs with such skill, honesty and empathy. At times tender, at times carrying a darker edge, the tales that she weaves are magical and transporting. Many of the songs were written during Priddy’s teenage years and early twenties and reference themes of childhood and distant memories, and as with all great songwriters, they cross many borders with their beauty and genre-defying originality.

I’ve listened to so many albums in the past where the writer, performer, arranger or producer just doesn’t ‘get’ the feel for what’s required to make a great song into a stunning recording. It’s such a pleasure listening to this album – just somehow knowing that everything is right. It feels right, it sounds right, it is just so. Huge compliments must go to producer Simon Weaver, and of course Priddy herself, for getting everything to sound so natural and intrinsic so as to take these wonderful songs to an even brighter place of luminescence. With an excellent ensemble cast of musicians, including a sweeping string section, occasionally cut through by raw electric guitar and drums, as well as Richard Marsh on double bass and Mikey Kenny on fiddle, the resulting recording is not just one of the best debut albums I can remember, but could well be viewed in 20-odd years time as a timeless classic, keeping good company with those revered 70s artists such as Messrs Drake, Cohen and Martyn.

Whilst Priddy’s guitar finger-picking style is extremely capable, subtle, top-notch, songwriter fare, her vocal style is rather more difficult to pinpoint. As I listen to the hypnotic album opener “Indigo”, my thoughts turn to Kirsty McCall. She shares a similar lilt in her voice, a twist, a hearty expression that is sublime. There’s a folkiness to it, but without going too far into the realms of ‘folk singer’ territory and the connotations, good or bad, that come with that tag. Rural mystical imagery floats effortlessly through this piece, with strings and layered vocals allowing the song to build towards its climax. Loosely inspired by the character of Heathcliff in Wuthering Heights, “Wolf” is catchy, grabbing the attention with its higher tempo and driving drum beats. “About Rosie” is more stripped back, with sensitive acoustic guitar, cello and accordion adding to the warmth of this tune. The first of two tracks about Greek myths, “Icarus”, examines the consequences of always wanting to fly higher and burn brighter. The old fable is brought to life in a powerful, meaningful way by Priddy, with Mike Kenny’s soaring fiddle adding to the overall atmosphere of the tune. If the first four tracks on the album had introduced me to the fabulous, endearing songs of Priddy, the fifth tune, and the second of the Greek myths tracks, “Eurodyce” serves up a surprise, blowing me away with its dark, luscious melancholy. This is a powerful statement from Priddy, its edgy, Radiohead style production absolutely kicking at my nerve-endings and putting shivers down my spine with its primordial, mouthwatering attack on the senses. It’s so cool, so modern, and so jaw-droppingly awe-inspiring I have to hit the repeat button and listen over time and time again. The tone changes once again with “Letters From A Travelling Man”. Think Mumford and Sons and you wouldn’t be far off the mark. Upbeat in a mixed-up Americana-Celtic kind of way, it’s far more than a foot-tapper/ crowd-pleaser song, but certainly has that vibe to it. “The Spring Never Came” is a song about lost love, its yearning, longing nature reminiscent of a long lost Leonard Cohen song. Simply beautiful. I also adore the change of focus towards the end of the track, yet another example of how intelligent the arrangements of these tunes are. The brooding “Ring O’ Roses” creates a moody soundscape, with the lovely acoustic guitar riffs taking me back to an old John Renbourn album, somewhere, somewhen. There’s a fine balance achieved throughout this entire album between tradition and new. Priddy has an incredible knack of finding her own style and touch within all the traditions that may have come before, effortlessly managing to pave her own way on the journey she takes. “The Isle of Eigg” floats gently like a summer breeze as Priddy takes us across black seas to the Hebrides, singing an engrossing story of the little island and the people she met there. “The Summer Has Flown” fills my heart with nostalgia. Snapshots of precious moments in time, once forgotten dreams, and transformative memories. A lovely way to close the album.

Great songs have a wonderful habit of travelling a long way, over time, and I can picture Priddy’s songs being enjoyed by a vast variety of listeners, now and well into the future. I truly hope this will be the case. Rarely does a new artist come along who unequivocally stops me in my tracks. Katherine Priddy is that artist. “The Eternal Rocks Beneath” is a breathtaking debut that will surely herald the beginning of a long and fruitful career for this extraordinarily talented, young singer-songwriter. For me personally, fresh, natural, inspired songwriting doesn’t get much better than this. The world is your oyster Ms Priddy… go grab it with both hands.

To celebrate the release of the album, Katherine Priddy is playing a very special show on the 25th of June that will be streamed live online from the stunning St. Paul’s Church in Birmingham’s Jewellery Quarter. Over the course of the evening, she will sing songs from the album as well as other favourites from her repertoire, with stripped-back musical accompaniment. Following the performance, she will then be hosting an exclusive Q&A conversation, where audience members will have a chance to ask any burning questions and have a chat over a drink. For tickets, and for further information on upcoming gigs, go to: www.katherinepriddy.co.uk

Mike Gates