Music Review: Pennyhawk – The Mystery Mines

November 29th, 2009 · 1 Comment

The Mystery Mines is the wonderful work of Kate Kennedy. Kate has been an incredible fixture in the Ames music scene for years, honing her craft as an extremely talented singer-songwriter/multi-instrumentalist. I can remember the first time I saw Kate play – it was April 29, 2005. I had just come off a 35 date solo tour and I sat in silence watching her play and thinking every song she was singing was ten times better that anything I had sang over the last month! I was so inspired by her performance that evening at a Campustown tattoo parlor that a few hours later I found myself taking a line from one of her songs and rewording it into a new song of my own.

The inspiring songs she played that night ended up on her debut album, Circle, Spiral, Line.  On this record, life’s most intriguing questions were asked in hushed tones over a bed of flutes and acoustic strums. The album left me yearning for more, and with Pennyhawk’s debut record, The Mystery Mines, my wish is granted.

This time around Kate has surrounded herself with kindred musical spirits, Nate Logsdon and Tessa Bean, to round out the incarnation that is Pennyhawk. The Mystery Mines’ lo-fi sound gives the songs a hauntingly timeless feel, impenetrable yet wholly accessible – the work of a gang of friends playing songs in a candlelit attic or the musical living room of your dreams.

Almost every song has a moment where the emotion peaks and hearts begin to weaken and bend. The beauty of the voices on “Being Grown” join forces with the light kitchen sink instrumentation to bring you into a musical wonderland where every sound is speaking to you, in its own language. Even the 36 second silent track “Trumpet Digestion” moves the soul and mind. Like a horror film, it’s the silence and anticipation for the final moments before the final track, “Ramblin and Gamblin,” that scare you the most. But in this case you are scared the final moment of the record has just occurred and that makes “Trumpet Digestion” a worthy inclusion to the album.

This album is best listened to in the dark with headphones on, and should be heard as a whole. Each dynamic shift brings you one step closer into the world of Pennyhawk, whether it is the painful story of a grandmother laying her final brother to rest on “Euler,” or the gleeful barnyard psychedelic romp of “Old Tire,” or the tearful “O Ana,” which is one of the most gut wrenching songs I have ever heard, describing the details of a friend’s broken heart. Like the song says, I “don’t want to judge or put them on trial,” but Pennyhawk, YOU are guilty of making a masterpiece in The Mystery Mines.

Tags: 2009 · AP Issues · November/December 2009 · Reviews

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