Listening to Katharina, it is easy to imagine yourself being whisked off to some trendy basement jazz club. Katharina sings softly through the smoke to an appreciative audience, while the musicians strum, pluck and tap their instruments with a smiling nod and occasional “yeah”.
Do you remember the days when you snuck off to the den, “armed” with a pitcher of ice cold lemonade in one hand, a snack in the other and your cassette player tucked under your arm and when equipped in this way you’d spent an entire blissful afternoon daydreaming yourself away to the realms that your favorite music icons wrote and sang about? When the world would seem to stand still for a precious few hours and noone and nothing could get you distracted from this secluded island of peaceful happiness? I certainly do as clear as daylight and the closest I got to moments of this caliber unmatched for years of “grownup” existence that leave barely any “breather” of space between chores and responsibilities of one or the other kind was when closely listening to Katharina Heinrich’s Love For Life album today. It is an effort that teems with passion, dedication, precision execution of the artistic vision albeit birthed during one of the darkest trials anyone can go through: The loss of a loved one. Or maybe it is exactly because of this personal tragedy that the results are hauntingly awe-inspiring, while I’m intentionally avoiding the term perfect at any cost…. because nothing is more boring than complete perfection. And yet – you almost can’t call this major piece of music anything else but perfect.
How so? Well, for one there is Katharina’s knack for writing songs that marry musicianship to the accessibility of a catchy melody or writing “timeless classics” as her collaborators and recruited musicians coined it. There is her sensual voice that navigates the musical equivalent of deepest despair with the same command and ease as the more lighthearted tracks – or so they come across. A vocal maturity that is rare and a humility towards her gift that should be wrapped and sold in family sized packages in the days of talent casting spectacles and whatnot. As if that wasn’t enough, she displays impressive piano chops throughout the record only to be “relieved” from her post for the piano solo in “Motherless Child” and “Christine” that Andy Nowak contributed as an icing on an already lavish cake of music. Have we mentioned “multi instrumentalist” yet? No? Well, she is, as she plays classical guitar on the record as well.
Next, Kat’s lyrics. It rarely ever gets more profound than this and not only in light of the backdrop of personal tragedy. You might as well divorce the lyrics from the personal experience that spawned them and can’t help but find yourself going “Yeah, been there, done that”, nonetheless, if you’re a sufficiently sentient, sensitive being, that is.
And then – the abundance of musical talent and sensitivity from her collaborators, who brought their incredible skills to the project in ways any songwriter can only dream of. Every single lick, every single line and musical statement finds its way into the songs in such an organic way that borders on telepathy. And that is the exact magic that outstanding pieces of music are made of: A mutual understanding, a being on the same page with everything that turns a song into a gem. And no less is what we hear on the album: Magic!
I haven’t listened to music like this in a long time. Scrap that: I haven’t experienced music like this in quite some time. But when you come across substance, there are no filters, there is no defense. It’s like falling in love: It happens and the forces of the universe align and inadvertently draw you into the experience.
Katharina Heinrich: All songwriting/composing except: “Sometimes/Motherless child” (Gospel/Spiritual), vocals, backing vocals, piano, classical guitar, piano, rhodes, editing, E-piano solo on “Faoleon”
Jeff Spencer: Electric Bass, producer, editing, mixing, mastering, steel string guitar in “All I need”, backing vocals, acoustic guitar, bass solo on “I Know” and “Relate”
Matthew Jones: Drums, percussion
Steve Browning: Jazz guitar, classical guitar, solo on “Love for Life”, “Roundabout”, “I know”, “Olena”, “Swimming”, “Trying”, guitar solo at the end of “Relate”
Andrew McKenzie: Electric guitar on “Together”
Luke Hanrey: Drums on “Together”
Aristazabai Hawkes: Double Bass on “Together”
Pete Rosser: Accordion solo on “Launderettes and Stories”
Christopher Arthur: Spoken lyrics on “Together”
Andy Nowak: Rhodes