The Portland based singer/songwriter Kat Fountain was drawn to the harmonica at an early age. Her first harmonica was purchased in a toy store in Connecticut in the mid ‘90s and since that day she has been honing her skills on the instrument ever since. Fountain has traveled around the country in the years since, performing solo with her harmonica or as part of her band SideBoob, and with folk singer/songwriter John Craigie.
Kat Fountain’s debut solo record Care Less, Do More features the harmonica she so loves but also her very own bluesy folk compositions that are sparse but in no way incomplete. She is one of those special cases that don’t just follow a carbon copy of style, but rather inherently knows the little nuances which separates the poseurs from the real thing.
One understands this from the very opening of Care Less, Do More, on the slow and powerful simplicity of “If Life Was Nice.” Set to a simple strum of chords, Fountain’s vocals at once display that glint of roughness which cuts so sharply into her music. There is a scratchiness here when there needs to be, a scratchiness which can then turn into the sweetness of a mother’s lullaby. It’s a dazzling effect and the listener at once realizes they are in the presence of a very talented musician, one who’s learned from life, from the hardships it can bring, but also the joys.
The joy is found on “Lights in a Jar” as it ambles along with its sparse and bristly percussion and Fountain using her voice give perspective to her narrative. This perspective is then downshifted to a scratchy and pinpointed beauty on “(Usually) Don't Drink a Lot.” Here the finger picked guitar which Fountain uses as a base for her songs pairs so perfectly together with her metaphors as she sings, “I’m drifting slowly / like the creek I grew up on / we’re feeling lonely like the north side of a city wall.”
Care Less, Do More is not only just Fountain’s solo debut but also in a sense a shared endeavor with her brother who sadly passed away from cancer a year before. On his computer she found three songs which she recorded and knowing this or not does not stop them from being some of the most beautiful tracks on the recording. Fountain showcases her vocal range on the sad and stunning “Houston” and even more stunning is “Up from So Far Down,” to which Fountain added her own harmonies to her brother’s already recorded song. It is a stirring song, and what I thought to be the finest on the record, because their voices mix so well together, powerfully, naturally.
At times while listening to Care Less, Do More, it is hard to believe this is only the first solo record that Kat Fountain has put out. It has the power of a seasoned veterans’ retrospective behind every gorgeous track. It has been some time since I’ve heard music this powerful from a relative newcomer. Highly recommended.
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