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Kat Wallace and David Sasso: Old Habits

Updated: Feb 2, 2022

Cover by Emma Lucille McCabe

Old Habits, the new album by grassroots duo Kat Wallace and David Sasso, shows all the variety that can be achieved in the classic folk ensemble, moving from lively barnyard jigs to touching acoustic ballads, even adding classical elements into the mix. The album seems to hone into that yearning nostalgia for a simpler time that much backyard country music has, flittering between songs that evoke romance, longing and a love of nature in the world around us.

The band are live and kicking, giving their all for a number of catchy ‘jigs’ or country tunes, the guitar and fiddle solos hamming it up to the max on tracks such as the instrumental ‘Somes Pond’ and the traditional ‘Ger the Rigger’. The musicianship is excellent, with the fiddle having great control, with gracefully subtle ornamentations hewn into their seamless playing, whilst the adept but light finger picked strings allow the songs to shine in all their sparkling grassroots glory. The band have great chemistry, the playful call and response between instruments and sharing of soloing duties in ‘Somes Pond’ showing how the give and take of a single musical phrase can be built up to recreate the visceral, fun-loving energy of the typical barn dance.

The artists themselves say that the album ‘explores the cyclical nature of life, love, and loss’. The lyrics all have a sense of longing, like they’re trying to reconcile the vast chasm between worldly and spiritual matters. Songs such as ‘Great Conjunction’ seem to take inspiration from The Book of Psalms, telling us:

And when I’m ready for my final resting place,

Put me high in a constellation bright,

Sitting on a throne of diamond lace

Cast white hot against the blue light.

There’s this comforting aspect to the lyrical feel, despite some of the sombre topics, with this feeling of a higher power overlooking it all. Whether that power is God, music or nature is undecided, but he’s certainly believed in here.

This spiritual feel is further given by the use of classical influences. The adoption of a larger ensemble than their previous album allows for more interesting and ghostly harmonies and reverb effects, moving the sound above and beyond the typical grass roots acoustic feel. Empty Bottle News is a good example, the combination of gently strummed guitar and romantically building strings help cloud the soundscape, creating a whirlpool of encircling instruments. There’s no regular rhythm, the parts simply being left to amass together in their own time, like nature itself.

It’s all set against their voices. David plays the wise teacher with his almost growling country twang. Kat’s vocals are more clear cut, moving easily from a transparent, ghostly fragility, her voice briefly breaking mid-sentence at times, to the more clear expressive tones, giving her songs a sensitive vulnerability as she looks at the outside world from within, as if she's someone who has gone through its trials and tribulations before earning the right to comment on it.

The album is keen to remind us of its origins in Americana even when it's busy incorporating music from elsewhere. It gives the whole project a certain freshness and makes it more accessible than just to grass root purists, offering songs of quite touching tenderness and beauty. It’s an album of many kind moments and shows how artists today are managing to stick to their roots, whilst edging them just a bit closer into the modern day.

Best songs:

· Old Habits

· Empty Bottle News

· Crack the Case

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