When Katie Brianna released her debut album, Dark Side of the Morning, in mid-2013 I wrote, ‘Dark Side of the Morning is a debut album that promises much about its creator - and because she has taken her time to craft it and release it, I have every confidence that it is the first step in a long career. I genuinely cannot wait to see what she comes up with next.’
The next release has come, and Victim or the Heroine lives up to that early promise, as well as demonstrating that Brianna has matured as a singer and songwriter. While she has moved further away from country music convention, that in itself suggests that she has asked questions of herself, especially when it comes to the best way to deploy her extraordinary voice. She has taken the emotion and storytelling of country music and found a style that allows her to relax when appropriate, to let her voice float above the song – where it belongs, given its often ethereal quality. Yet this is also an album that is rooted in reality: love isn’t perfect, wrong turns are taken in life, and some days are melancholy.
Shane Nicholson produced the album; his ability to discern what’s at the core of an artist and their work, and to never lose that in the work of creating an album, is an exceptional skill. Only Brianna and Nicholson know if he’s the one responsible for making the instruments the supporting cast to Brianna’s leading turn (even though the studio band included Glen Hannah and Matt Fell). This puts more pressure on her – to make the lyrics and the vocals the best they can be – but she is worthy of the responsibility and the attention.
So I’ve taken three paragraphs to come to this conclusion: this is just a bloody lovely album. Brianna is impossible to ignore – not that anyone would want to – and somehow she combines dreaminess with a consciousness that is anchored in everyday life. Which makes Victim or the Heroine a salve and an escape, and a fitting second album for an important artist.
Victim or the Heroine is out now through MGM Distribution.