Katy J Pearson is driven by the compulsion to shake off the ‘country music’ label. With her 2020 debut ‘Return’, the singer broke out with line-dancing music videos, lively brass choruses and timeless vocals (which also drew comparisons to Stevie Nicks and Kate Bush). But she didn’t want to be predictable. So for her follow-up, Pearson enlisted indie producer extraordinaire Dan Carey. “He could see that there was a part of me that wanted to branch out,” Pearson has explained. “I just didn’t know where and how far to push it, but it was exactly the kind of progression I was looking for.”
Pearson’s mash-up of folk, country and rock influences made ‘Return’ a sweet elixir for the darkness of lockdown in 2020. Since then, she’s toyed around with her sound, providing vocals on Orlando Weeks’ album ‘Hop Up’, performing with Yard Act at End Of The Road and exploring trad-folk with collective Broadside Hacks’ project ‘Songs Without Authors’.
Throughout ‘Sound Of The Morning’, Pearson cuts down on the jangly arrangements and joyously plucked guitars of her previous release. Instead, she brings a sense of realism to the rose-tinted fantasy. Take ‘Alligator’, for example. The song has frustration rippling through the drums, bassline and vocals as she airs her grievances: ‘Got my dress / Caught in the tube door / Step in vomit on the floor / Could get it any better?’
There are still traces of her earlier work scattered throughout: see the toe-tapping lead single ‘Talk Over Town’ or the buoyantly brassy ‘Howl’ (the latter with Weeks on guest vocals). But it’s in its grittier parts that this album really excels. The standout track, ‘Confession’, comes inspired by a conversation about #MeToo: it’s an anxious rattle of a song, with the synthesizer mimicking a claustrophobic tightness in the chest. Anger bleeds through the lyrics as Person repeats: ‘I tried to tell you something / React, react, react, react, react / But you just wouldn’t listen’.
This album shows that Pearson isn’t shying away from darker themes. Instead, she guides the listener through new sonic terrains and out into the light. The closing track, ‘Willow’s Song’, a cover of the Paul Giovanni track that appeared in The Wicker Man, is a fitting conclusion. It’s timeless and familiar, yet she paints it with krautrock influences to create something fresh. As she sings, ‘Heigh ho / Who is there? / No one but me my dear,’ over triumphant horns, it suggests that Katy J Pearson’s story far from over, and her exploration will continue.
Release date: July 8
Record label: Heavenly Recordings