An album which has been criminally ignored, this one. Miss the right breeze of softly massaged hype, fail to arrive in the right month or go to the right person for review and truly beautiful records like this can sometimes go almost completely unnoticed. That said, but for my exposure to her debut four years ago, I might not have noticed its many charms. Indeed, I first happened upon the charms of this particular artist when skimming through one of Spillers Records’ weekly mailouts at the end of 2007. Ashli Todd, who now runs the whole shebang, was wildly enthusing about Sarabeth Tucek and I clicked through to listen to a few samples before ordering the CD. Some months later, whilst visiting Britain’s finest city, in feverishly optimistic pursuit of success in the rugby, I popped into Spillers, situated as it still was then on The Hayes, for a quick rummage in the vinyl racks. Happening upon a vinyl copy, I was overcome with a sense I’ve since learnt to not even fight: the need to have a record I love on my favourite format, despite already owning the tunes. As I took it to the counter, Ashli began wildly enthusing about how good it was and I replied that I already knew as I’d bought the CD some months ago. After a slightly odd look, we then rhapsodised about that particular debut for several minutes before I went off to watch the boys in red take a hiding.
‘Get Well Soon’ is a very different record to that debut, documenting the death of Tucek’s father and borne out of a period of lows and self-destructive behaviour which ensured that this was never simply going to be more of the same. It sounds like the kind of album you’d dig out of the crates at a record fair, pick up on the basis of its beautiful sleeve and buy on a whim, only to find you’ve unearthed a lost classic. ‘The Fireman’ is a warm, spacious recording and Tucek’s vocal, which sits atop, delivering lines like “The Fireman saved many a home but the fireman could save his own,” is utterly beautiful. When the plucked guitar line comes in, my day is quantifiably improved. It’s one of those little moments in songs which cause the hairs to go up on your neck and other assorted clichés which describe discernable psychical reactions. Soft and measured seems to be the musical order of the day here but, as anyone who likes a little Cat Power or ‘Sometimes I Wish We Were An Eagle’ knows, when this is executed to perfection, it can be genuinely very affecting.
‘State I Am In’ lilts and chugs with a nod to down-tempo Pretenders and early Nineties American indie. It’s a charming bit of musical self-confidence amongst a great deal of heartache and melodic fragility. In contrast, the faintly unsettling drone-like introduction to ‘Rising’ gradually rumbles its way to an outburst of guitars and the parting shot, “I can’t wait to see you again and I cannot see you again.” That said, gorgeously arranged material, evoking late Sixties, early Seventies singer-songwriters of note, remains the staple fare. If Karen Dalton brightens and emboldens your world, then this album will occupying a similar place in your heart after a number of listens. If the name Karen Dalton means nothing to you, do some research, spend £20 on her two studio albums and thank me later.
‘Get Well Soon’ is an album which definitely benefits from regular plays. While its delights are not in any way hard to find on initial listens, repeated exposure will allow it to slowly curl its way around your emotions and eek out a little place in your heart. It’s the sort of album you’ll tell people about excitedly and buy for the sensitive types in your life. The album’s final lines offer a measured sense of optimism and triumph: “It just takes time, get well soon. I was once just like you, get well soon.” Many great records have been birthed out of traumatic or intense periods of an artist’s life, and to that list of fine albums can be added ‘Get Well Soon’.