Kate Walsh – Cover Up EP

[Blueberry Pie; 2009]

There’s something undeniably adorable about Kate Walsh’s voice. As light as clouds and as soft as your favourite pillow, it would be hard to not find anything she creates a form of easy listening, perfectly suited for some slow-paced, sunny Sunday morning. But that could just be me. When I went to see her live a few weeks back I felt extortionately out of place in a room full of mainly older people. I can understand why she appeals to the older generation, but am I the only one in my age group who would openly admit to liking music like this? I’d hope not. Maybe I’ve just got some obvious heartstrings that can be easily pulled by the sweetest of voices singing lyrics like “He doesn’t know how far I will go to kiss him” over a tender guitar and some smushy strings.

Nonetheless, I won’t call Kate Walsh a guilty pleasure. The idea of a guilty pleasure itself doesn’t even hold any water these days, as about anything can be defended with the correct words and the sternest confidence. It’s more than easy to fall back on music that doesn’t do a great deal to actually challenge the listener, to make them listen intently and have to process the sounds being fed to their ears and from the artist’s viewpoint; it’s sensible to stick with familiar and reliable formulas.

But the odd thing is, despite changing her approach slightly on this covers EP by sitting down to a piano and adding some background layers as accompaniment, it rarely feels like anything is actually different. On “Who’s That Girl?” some backing vocals add an expected smoothness to the song as it swells into a sadly over-sentimental chorus, while “Save A Prayer” doesn’t get any deeper with handclaps.

In fairness though, Walsh herself actually sounds a little different here. She moves away from her usual coo on her take on The Cure’s “Lullaby,” going instead for whispering at points, which seems to compliment the lyrics and the slightly unnerving accordion that creeps up amidst other little noises. For the other songs she sounds more confident than with her own previous material, and on some level that’s understandable considering she’s working with songs that have lasted decades.

In all honesty I‘m as undecided about this EP as I sound from the previous paragraphs. Taken on its own and with no prior conceptions it will most likely play without doing any harm, unless you have little desire to hear the likes of The Eurthymics or Erasure done Gary Jules-style. But being the easily charmed guy I am who fell for her voice on her last record, Tim’s House, I feel obliged to just sit and smile and listen to this without raising any sort of criticism or such. But doing that feels dishonest, because while there isn’t anything wrong with the EP itself, it creates a problem in stripping anthemic songs that almost pulsated to quiet and generally unmemorable moments. But really, I can’t say I expected her to do anything but this.