Album Review / Karen Matheson: Still Time

Two years ago was the first time we finally got to be a part of Celtic Connections – only in the audience, of course, but still. It was a stupefying 10 days and one of the big moments came right after Blazin’ Fiddles had ended their blast of a gig.

As we were leaving King’s Theater, my wife whispered to me ”Karen Matheson is standing a meter behind you”. I turned and there she was. I froze completely and just smiled at her as only a complete fool can. She smiled back and walked by. I didn’t even thank her.

I should have thanked her, and plenty at that, because Capercaillie and her voice were the ultimate key that opened the door to Celtic music for me. I remain forever in gratitude.

So, writing about anything she does in music comes with a challenge for me. Icons can have that effect on you.

But she, of course is no icon; no idealized image to be raised on any pedestal. She is far too open and real and there for that. As her long-time-coming new album proves.

She tells in the notes on her Bandcamp site that Still Time has brewing for years and, ironically enough, the lockdown year gave her the impulse to go forward with it. The slow maturation process is audible: the selection of songs (both originals and covers), the arrangements, the A-level Scottish musicians and the overall atmosphere of the album are all perfectly in place. It sounds like an album that has grown or evolved rather than been made.

Still Time is very much a song cycle in the zone between folk and classy pop, and in that it’s not too far removed from her previous solo outings (no Gaelic on this one, though). It’s a supremely pleasant and warm experience, with music and words one can perhaps best savour in unhurried twilight hours, taking in the emotion and Karen’s embracing presence.

For the songs, my main takeways are the dynamic opening Cassiopeia Coming Through (such a great groove, and listen to Ryan Quigley’s impro horn work throughout the song), the moving title track (check out the video too!), the beautiful cover of the Runrig classic Recovery and the wistful The Glory Demon.

Stiil Time may not open too many new paths and doors but it’s a beautiful expression of Karen’s person and a sorely needed appearance of vox humana in this dark time.

*****
Still Time is availabe on different formats on Karen’s Bandcamp site:
https://karenmatheson.bandcamp.com/album/still-time

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