Sarabeth Tucek – Get Well Soon

Sarabeth Tucek - Get Well Soon

Sarabeth Tucek’s second album is in some aspects informed by tragedy. The songwriting sessions for the twelve songs on Get Well Soon were overshadowed by the death of her father, and at least some of the songs contain a perceptibly highly personal and perhaps wounded sense of loss and bereavement. Some, but not all. Sarabeth gives every impression of having overcome any emotional crises provoked by this event, and Get Well Soon, while it has many quite open and other, more subdued references to home life and the difficulties a significant break in that can entail, also contains at its core a reaffirmation of life, indeed an outright defiance of death itself.

This only speaks of Sarabeth Tucek’s lyrical style, and her words are often remarkably astute and sometimes deeply affecting. Her voice is a warmly expressive one and carries the conflicting senses of loss, reflection, and those of the rebound from a dark moment with phrased confidence, the skill of an experienced and indeed influential musician providing depth and clarity to themes that often aren’t very openly touched upon. Laura Marling cites her as an influence, and collaborations with Anton Newcombe and tours with BRMC and Bob Dylan very obviously honed her playing and writing style into its present, resonant and unfussy style. In terms of instrumentation less is very often more with Sarabeth and her band, a deceptively simplistic reliance on melody as opposed to playing for effect, and there’s very little in the way of softening the blows that her songs contain. The guitars are sharp and provide a sometimes discordant, even coldly appraising backing that maintains a contrast with the unforced and measured tones of Sarabeth’s vocal.

So, there are undeniable currents at work amongst the twelve songs that constitute Get Well Soon. Despite the often powerful efforts of her backing band, Sarabeth Tucek maintains both her focus and indeed her composure throughout. First track “The Wound And The Bow” is a softly taken ballad, perhaps reminiscent of Mazzy Star in its expressive simplicity, and while it’s a perfect introduction to the singer and her work, it also contains few if any hints of the range of emotion and brazen energies that are to ensue. The autoharp that accompanies Sarabeth’s vocal during the opening verse of “Wooden” is swiftly put aside in favour of a crashing, near deranged blues influenced riff that’s handled with aptitude and provides a virulently distorted framework for the almost delicate vocal. “The Fireman” is one song that refers openly to Sarabeth’s recent trauma, and is a more conventionally handled song that Alison Krauss might look to: “the fireman saved many a home / but the fireman could not save his own” runs a lyric that handles loss with a thoughtful perspective. “Smile For No-One” is an also at least superficially mainstream country number, its slide guitar replaced with what sounds a lot like a theremin, and ‘Things Left Behind’, with its keening one note keyboard recalls some of the Brian Jonestown Massacre’s more reflective moments.

In a collection of songs none of which are less than entirely inspired, there are numerous definite highlights to savour on the remainder of Get Well Soon. “In The Bar” is a is the sound of Sarabeth making a reappraisal of her own circumstance and its lyric and tune suddenly assume a momentum entirely their own. “Beautiful things don’t die” runs the lyric as the songs melody lifts itself into a structured euphoria, the vocal providing a softening counterpoint to the jangling melodies. “Rising” is however an altogether more complicated song, beginning as subtly as the solo performance of the albums first track, developing into a swaying, verging on eastern influenced tune, that’s suddenly twisted out of its shapes by some blistering lead guitar. It is, by any standard, a dramatic, verging on bravura display of ability, and firmly places Get Well Soon in the Alt.Country CD racks. Whatever else she’s doing, Sarabeth Tucek isn’t playing it safe, as ensuing tracks “The Doctor”and “Exit Ghost” confirm.

The final and title track returns us to Sarabeth’s campfire, only a keyboard providing backing to an uptempo piece of guitar picking that also contains the perhaps most openly personal lyric on the entire album: “now looking back I see / my mind, it was cracked” sings Sarabeth with disarming honesty and perceptible humour. It’s an agreeably lighthearted end to what has been an often demanding and frequently surprising evening in the company of a quite remarkable talent, but Sarabeth Tucek and her songs are blessed with both a gravitas and a lack of guile that enables her to retain her charm and keep even the more cynical listener on her side throughout. Get Well Soon is an album you could actually give to a sick friend, without fear of it worsening their condition.