Consistent. It is a strong word and compliment that everyone would like to be associated with, no matter what they do in life. Throughout veteran Seattle musician and ex-Hammerbox and Goodness singer Carrie Akre's career, the music she released has almost always drawn excellent reviews, even if label troubles prevented it from getting the wider audiences that such praise would normally deserve.
So after a five-year break, Carrie Akre is back with a new record and new label – as of August – to support it (Loveless Records). Titled Last The Evening, her third solo CD continues a strong string of releases that include 2000's Home and 2002's Invitation, both of which were released on her own label, My Way Records.
This time around, Akre brought in another well-respected figure of the Northwest music scene, Steve Fisk, who has produced the likes of Screaming Trees, Nirvana and The Posies. He has worked with bands that are very much guitar-oriented as well as more varied outfits like Soul Coughing. And though there is plenty of guitar work on Last The Evening, much of it is piano-based, which is different for Carrie Akre.
"Last The Evening" (the title track) is a dynamic waltz-y piano ballad that really gets going during the refrains, where Akre's incredibly soulful, bluesy piano and vocals instincts take over. The equally inspired track that follows, "Half Shelf Life," is more free-form in arrangement during the verses, then launches into a classic '50s-like romp, completed with a buzzing bass and bluesy vocals.
Many songs, like "Breathe," "Trafalgar Square" and many others act as self-therapy for Akre, who wrote these songs when she was at a low point in her career. Whether singing about "being taken advantage of" in "Half Shelf Life" or being "down in despair" in "Trafalgar Square," she tries to take on a cup-half-full mentality about life by song's end. And thank goodness for her sake, these songs reflect the overcoming of her struggles and sound uplifting, instead of bitter.
My only complaint regarding this album is that it is a bit overproduced, and at times features too much mellotron in particular. Songs like the Tori Amos-esque "Stupid Is" have a ghoulish mellotron effect that sounds cool at first but gets more distracting as the song goes along. On the other hand, Fisk took the multi-voiced ad-libbed Akre vocals on "Breathe" and made them sound like pure ear candy on what is surely the poppiest, rockin' and most hit-worthy song on the album.
On my personal favorite track "Halo," it's just Akre and Danny Newcomb's clean electric guitar, which is colored with a slow phaser effect and later joined by quiet layers of other guitar parts that sound like an indie rock version of U2's The Edge (think "Stay (Far Away, So Close)." The credits say Steve Fisk plays an organ on this calm, soothing number, but either that's wrong or it got lost in the mix. [There are a few lyrical misprints in the booklet]
Hidden track "Dear John," with Akre on vocals, finger-picked acoustic guitar and sustained keyboard synths, has an even quieter feel than "Halo" and is almost as memorable as the latter.
In all, whether you want your soul to be stirred loudly or relaxed, Last The Evening is the CD for you. Congrats to Carrie Akre for making a consistently repeat-worthy album this late into her storied career.
For more information on Carrie Akre (or to sing her praises and drop a comment), go to the singer's Myspace page.