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Music Review: Heather Kropf – Hestia

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Certain albums invite a bit of contemplation — just a little time to let the music sink in and simmer — before some telling aspect, be it a particular lyric or chord progression, tugs at one of your proverbial soft spots, bringing everything into focus. With its melodic subtleties and deceptively simple songs, such a depiction could fairly apply to Hestia, the third and most recent release by Heather Kropf.

For those unfamiliar with the singer/songwriter and her music, Kropf affects a soft, bittersweet voice — imagine an audible brew of Shawn Colvin, Suzanne Vega, and Kasey Chambers — while, musically drawing upon contemporary folk as imparted, for the most part, on piano.

Named after the Greek goddess of the hearth fire who oversaw domestic life, Hestia aptly reflects a placating, insulated sort of serenity. Supported by sparse, delicate arrangements — all but one track underscoring Kropf’s rich piano playing — the music elicits an ethereal, often melancholy dimension.

The songs themselves — some having been culled and re-worked from earlier compositions while others mark their first appearance on record — are evocative vignettes, as intriguing in their lyrical abstractions as in their fragile sound. From the narrative enigma in “Grace” — “She’s looking through the keyhole/ You gonna ask her in?” — to the modest mysticism summoned by a pedal steel in “Kite,” Kropf endears herself as an artist of sensitive depth and resonance.

Most striking is “Devolving,” in which Kropf envisions a dark, swirling haze of imagery — “Let the winter wind blow cold now/ To clear the evidence of what’s gone down” — as an ominous clarinet complements an otherwise minimalist, unwavering motif. It’s the kind of song that has you figuratively grasping for a revelation, all the while leaving you happily immersed in its haze.

Hestia is also that kind of album. Heather Kropf doesn’t come off here as a starkly confessional or cathartic sort of singer/songwriter. Rather, she sounds like she’s tapping into subconscious terrain, unearthing impressions that aren’t yet crystallized or perhaps even understood. And it’s amid such emotional obscurities that Kropf makes compelling music.

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About Donald Gibson

Donald Gibson is the publisher of www.writeonmusic.com and a freelance music journalist whose byline has appeared in such publications as No Depression, Spinner, The Seattle Post Intelligencer, Cinema Sentries, Blinded by Sound, and Blogcritics, where he was the Senior Music Editor (2011-2012) and Assistant Music Editor (2008-2011). He has interviewed and profiled such artists as Tony Bennett, Lucinda Williams, Jakob Dylan, Allen Toussaint, Boz Scaggs, Johnny Marr, Charli XCX, Justin Hayward (The Moody Blues), Susanna Hoffs, Bruce Hornsby, Delbert McClinton, Jonny Lang, Alan Parsons, Bill Frisell, Rickie Lee Jones, Christina Perri, Don Felder (The Eagles), Jimmy Webb, Katie Melua, and Buddy Guy, among many others.