What do we know about Piney Gir then? That she originates from Kansas, has lived in London for over a decade, and was a leading light in several noted all female troupes such as the Schla La Las and the Panther Girls. I need to trawl my own memory banks for info here as there isn’t an accompanying press release for ‘The Yearling’, and I think I need one.
Watch any of Piney Girs’ videos and find yourself struck by the, there isn’t any other word for it, chintziness of the imagery and depending on mood, Piney herself. Not kitsch though; those are real flowers, not plastic ones, the vintage toys in the background are moving and the imagery is only the start of what Piney and her friends want us to see and hear. Underneath the visuals are some carefully crafted songs and some very dextrous musicianship which, when added to Piney’s own easy-on-the-ear vocals and eminently quotable lyrics, make for an intriguing and entertaining listen.
Thing is, Piney Gir would have us believe that she’s just really a naive country lass, one who’s a little lost and somewhat at odds with the big city that circumstances force her to inhabit, and also one who’s going to leg it back to Smallville at the first opportunity. This is possibly how it all began for (her real name) Angela Penhaligon, but over a decade since she first arrived in London, The Yearling is an accomplished and mature piece of work. The smooth country jazz tones that introduce the album with “Hello Halo”, a peppy guitar and violin number that suggests Piney has spent much of 2008 listening to such luminaries and viruosos as Stephan Grapelli, but it’s third track “Blithe Spirit” which provides the proper introduction , containing as it does all the ingredients that make The Yearling worth listening to. A combination of mellow guitar, some curious vibey effects and a quirky lyric: ‘when I’m a ghost / I wouldn’t go / so very far away’ sings Piney as she describes making a present for her loved one from paper, glue, and anything else she could find in her garden.
Ms. Gir also shares her opinion on subjects such as London public transport. “199 To Elephant And Castle” is an all to brief acapella exercise leading into the assertations of “Lion (I Am One)” which with its grittily swaying bassline and off-kilter percussions really does start to sound like Sheryl Crowe jamming alongside the Bad Seeds. And there is an actual Bad Seed involved here. “Blixa Bargeld’s Bicycle” is the tale of said velocipede, which Mr. Bargeld is unable to take to China with him. This left me wondering exactly who else is involved in the 16 tracks on The Yearling. “All The Wonderful Things” is a duet with Brakes’ Eamon Hamilton, and I expect that’s Nick Cave on ukelele somewhere in the background. One definite album highlight is is “Not Your Anything”, and rarely has such vitriol sounded so delightful or even funny – at least superficially resembling something of Kirstin Hersh’s solo work (always a good place to start with this listener) and complete with string section, the lyric has a crushing finality about it: ‘if you climbed mount Everest / and brought me the crown jewels / it wouldn’t make me happy / cos you made me look a fool’. Doesn’t mince her words, Piney doesn’t.
My only real gripe here is that at 16 tracks Piney and her chums are in danger of spreading their material a little too thinly, but The Yearling is pretty much beyond criticism as a piece of music and Piney herself is too skilled a performer to fall into some of the more obvious traps which await a songstress of her type. The Yearling is quite possibly Piney Girs’ masterpiece.