Review: With Touching Tales About Life and Loss, Kate Schutt’s ’Bright Nowhere‘ Casts Light on a Particularly Sad Scenario

Kate Schutt/Bright Nowhere/independent
Four out of Five Stars

Kate Schutt has an accredited history as an award-winning singer, songwriter, composer, and performer, a career born out of her earliest musical encounters in her preteens and subsequent schooling at the Berklee School of Music and Harvard University. Throat surgery briefly slowed her career, but when she returned with an EP —Heart Shot—in 2004 and a pair of subsequent full-length releases, No Love Lost in 2007 and Telephone Game two years later, the kudos came quickly. They included wins in the John Lennon Songwriting Contest and at the 6th annual Music Awards Vox Pop gathering, as well as a nomination for Jazz Song of the Year at the 7th Annual Independent Music Awards.

Still, these honors and accolades—including frequent categorization as a “jazz-pop” artist—don’t really prepare the listener for the emotional imprint left by her new LP, Bright Nowhere. Given that it’s a belated return, which comes a full dozen years after her last album, it’s also an effort that’s especially anticipated.

Written and recorded in the wake of her mother’s passing—Schutt served as her mother’s primary caregiver during the final five years of her life—Bright Nowhere is a love letter of sorts, an intuitive glimpse at the conflicting emotions and heart wrenching circumstance that accompanies the death of a loved one. Both tender and tenacious to varying degrees, it boasts a series of deeply-moving melodies that tug at the heartstrings and resonate with empathy and emotion.

Songs such as “Mothers,” “Fight the Good Fight,” “The Spring That Felt Like Fall,” “Nothing I Won’t Bear,” “I Saw Death Arrive,” and “Victory on the Road to Defeat” are as expressive as the titles imply, a riveting series of soliloquies that emerge as haunting and harrowing in equal measure. The arrangements resonate as well, all of them richly embossed by Grammy Award-winning producer Rob Mounsey, who turns each into an expression of epoch proportions. Still, credit lies mainly with Schutt herself, who transforms the more upbeat songs such as “Fight the Good Fight,” “Keep Her Out of Heaven,” “Roll the Stone Back,” and “Nothing I Won’t Bear” into profound expressions of courage, conviction and determination. There’s resolve and resilience flowing through each of these entries, and the inspiration they share is something that anyone who’s experienced the same sad scenario can draw from, and as a result, feel affirmed by.

Similar in stance to Joni Mitchell, Norah Jones and Dianna Krall, Schutt’s languid vocals ply mood and melody in equal measure, resulting in a work that ought to bring her the wider recognition she so decidedly deserves. Bright Nowhere is illuminating indeed.

Photo Credit: Andreea Ballen

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