This six-track EP has traditional elements to its music – there are roots there that stretch back several decades – but it also has a power that would not be found on a lot of traditional music: the emotion in Kristy Apps’s voice. And that emotion seems to be anguish, if not grief. The lyrics don’t necessarily always suggest that it’s anguish, but in most of the songs that’s what it sounds like, and it’s compelling.
There are voices of great strength that come with controlled emotions; Apps has no such limits. She lets us hear everything. This suggests a songwriter and singer who is brave enough to stand metaphorically naked before the world – to declare that this is who she is, and we can take it or leave it. While she could have chosen rock music to do this – her voice would suit a range of musical styles – storytelling is a hallmark of the country genre, so it’s appropriate that she’s chosen it.
This EP was produced by Shane Nicholson, who’s had a busy time of it lately. The last few albums I’ve reviewed that he’s produced (including those of Jenny Queen and Lyn Bowtell) have been from female artists. In each case, he’s enabled these artists to be themselves – to let their ‘true voices’ shine – and ensured that the instruments support them rather than overwhelm them. In other words: he’s a sensitive producer and the artists who’ve gone to him were well advised to do so.
Back to Apps, though: the EP may require a handful of listens to really take hold, and then you’ll be hearing her voice in your head for quite a while afterwards. You might even feel a tug of emotion yourself – and that’s the effect good stories are meant to have.
Kristy Apps and the Shotgun Shirleys is available now.