February 8, 2019
Review by David Simers
Photos by Kerry Langford
Kara Grainger Delivers The Blues In Style!
As the crowd fills in on a cold night at The Guitar Sanctuary in McKinney, several old friends gather to talk about seeing and hearing Kara Grainger for the first time. Others chime in and tell how they have followed the career path of the young blues artist originally from Sydney, Australia.
Grainger soon comes on stage and immediately wows the crowd with her slide playing on her acoustic guitar. The folksy blues beat picks up and her soulful voice seduces the audience on “The Sky Is Falling.” Her left hand becomes a blur on the fret for the guitar solo on the first blues song the talented artist ever wrote.
Kara continues on slide acoustic with J.J. Cale's “I'll Make Love To You Anytime.” Drummer Brian Austin keeps a heavy back-beat going during the song, especially during Kara's solo. The percussion shows how important a good drummer is to a blues band.
The beautiful, young lady in blues jeans, a white blouse and long, dark hair switches to electric guitar and instantly invites comparisons to a young Bonnie Raitt during “Lost In You,” another of her original songs. Lewis Stevens' keyboard complemented the laid back blues beat of this song so well as Grainger's face and mannerisms seems to tell the audience that these words are expressions of her soul and not just lyrics wrapped around chords and notes.
The title track of her new album, Living With Your Ghost, is simply a great song. Playing my signed copy since getting it last year, this reporter notices both the fans enjoying it and the pride on Kara's face as she plays it with passion and sings it with an emotional exuberance.
Grainger talks for a few minutes in her spellbinding Australian accent to thank everyone for coming out and to thank Station House Records and Cat 5 Amps for sponsoring her. She tells that the next song off the new album, “Nowhere To Be Found,” is written in a bunch of different open tunes. The slide on acoustic opens with an almost Cajun-Voodoo beat and Austin and Bassist Chris Marsh keep it tight. Kara has improved her craft of singer/songwriter immensely and writes songs that fit her voice and rhythm perfectly.
A cover of the great Robert Johnson's “C'Mon In My Kitchen” showcases her instrumental talent and Stephens, who played for Freddie King and so many other greats, lets his fingers fly on the keys to turn this into a foot-stomping number. Not many women can carry a Robert Johnson song, but the songstress pulls it off impeccably.
The heavy blues of “So Many Roads” allows the talented instrumentalist to display her sensual connection to the song by picking individual notes that turn into extended tones. With eyes closed, her body sways as she delivers an expression of feeling that not many artists share. Austin, Marsh and Stevens whip it into a frenzy as Kara sets the tone for the ending as she lowers her booming voice and sings, “how can I be satisfied?”
Grainger ups the ante once more as she segues into “Whipping Post” by the Allman Brothers many years before she was born. She combines her Australian soul with Gregg Allman's blue-eyed soul and nails it to the crowd's delight. Each band member plays to their strengths and the resulting jam turns into a foot-stomping sing-along.
Also from the new album, “Nobody But You,” is written directly from the heart. The slide picking that Kara plays even sounds like the sound of a heart breaking. The beautiful and meaningful song engages the fans who shout their approval. The slide is so effective on the faster beat of “So Many Ways To Get To Heaven.” Lewis' magnificent keys underscores the entire song, as does Chris' aggressive bass. Brian is rock steady on the kit, as always.
Grainger ends with “Working My Way Back Home,” a very tight piece that turns into another jam session among the band members. Everyone got to shine, everyone complemented the other members as though they have been playing together for years and everyone gave it their all to end a fantastic set.
The merchandise tables get busy after the show and fans chat with the easy-going artist. Giving this reporter a quote after the show, Kara loved the Guitar Sanctuary. “This is my first time here at the Guitar Sanctuary. It's so nice to play at a club where the owners understand both the fans and the musician.” Asking about her penetrating lyrics, she explains that is what she is going for. She wants to emote feelings and not just words. Fortunately, she talked a few more minutes about the sincerity of her songs and just how important that is to her. And, it results in Kara giving me a big hug!
Jump on the bandwagon now and listen to her previous work as well as Living With Your Ghost. Listen to the lyrics or simply jam out to the music. Visit her at www.karagrainger.com. You'll be glad you did!
Thanks to Maylee Thomas-fuller and George Fuller, and the outstanding Guitar Sanctuary. Special thanks to Station House Records, Cat 5 Amps, and Clint Birdwell. Great photos by Kerry Langford.