Katie Grace Helow

19 01 2010

Today brings us some folky, acoustic music straight out of Jacksonville. Chris tells you about the stylings of Katie Grace Helow. Enjoy!

Everyone has a go-to hang out spot in high school: That’s 70’s Show had Eric’s basement, Boy Meets World had Chubby’s, and Alexei and I (along with generous helpings of other hipsters, vagrants, and tight-jeaned randoms) had Uncommon Grounds. Imagine Central Perk from Friends with less purchasing and more loitering. Oh, and Scattergories. Anyway, point here is, it’s a historic place in my life, and I might have never found it had Katie Grace Helow not played a CD release show there years ago.

The album was called Let’s Be Wind, and it offered catchy acoustic guitar combined with fresh lyrics and raw talent. The CD case was a brown paper lunch bag folded, taped, and marked with Sharpie; this only added to the experience. It’s a fantastic album with a variety of melodic, poppy, and edgier tunes. She may have released something else between then and her most recent album, but I’m not sure and not committed enough to investigate. I do know, however, her latest work is called On Time & the Ocean, released the day after Christmas 2009. I went to the CD release show accompanied by her sister, Meredith Helow, and our friend Hiatt Woods.

Uncommon Grounds closed down well over a year ago, so the venue this time around was The Sinclair in downtown Jacksonville. I’d never heard of it and encountered hardships locating it, but it’s basically a very deep rectangle with a bar running the length of it and a stage on the far end. Pretty terrible set-up, but it contributes to an original atmosphere. Maximum occupancy was met early in the evening, and one of the two bands that played before Katie was really good. The other sucked. But that’s not our problem.

Katie played an excellent show, broadcasting a significant sample of the new album. One song even encouraged audience participation as percussion, and it was an overall very enjoyable show. The music this time around is considerably slower and heavier, but with no reduction in quality. It’s still largely traditional finger-picked acoustic guitar, which especially allows her vocals to shine. Alexei wanted me to do a track by track, but it requires a lot of time I don’t have and effort I’d rather avoid. My favorites from the album, though, are “Water Ballad”, “Over the Ocean”, and “Tall Tree”. Her lyrics, as always, are valid and insightful, and include novel reflections on Florida (and time and the ocean… obviously). Katie Grace Helow is an excellent local singer/songwriter and plays shows frequently; go see her live, you won’t regret it. It’s finger-pickin’ good.

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