|No Love Lost, the latest album from Kate Schutt, is a meticulously thought out and imaginatively packaged work of art. Schutt, a multi-instrumentalist who primarily plays a Novax 8-string guitar, composed the music, co-wrote the lyrics, co-mixed and produced the album.
The organic, warm, brown paper bag effect of the album cover, giving the impression that it was recycled, underscores the metaphor of how we all 'recycle' our hearts every time we fall in and out of love. A lot is happening on the cover but it is all achieved with a very light hand, from the barely-there graphics, to the soft-focus images. And, staring at the cover photos of Kate, she already feels like a very close long-time friend, yet the album hasn't even been opened!
Once unwrapped, the whimsical colouring of the CD, to resemble an actual album with its black 'record' and red (heart-coloured) 'label', extends that comfortable trip down memory lane feeling.
Finally having made its way to the player, the 10-song album pulls, taunts and teases the listener through all the obsessive, guilt-ridden, euphoric, fall-on-your-face, dreamy aspects of love. All the while, the sitting-on-the-floor-in-the-basement-consoling-a-broken-hearted-friend honesty permeates both the vocals and the lyrics. From the first song, "How Much In Love", the line from childhood of "Cross your heart, hope to die" calls to mind the wide-eyed youthful vulnerability that we never seem to lose when it comes to love.
Throughout, Schutt's raw vocals, combined with poignant lyrics evocative of Tracy Chapman, juxtapose against the sophisticated instrumental arrangements. From the tumbling-between-the-sheets vocals dripping with yearning in "Peter Please" to the spitting-of-darts bitterness in "Two Halves of a Broken Heart", Kate's emoting is powerful. She delivers every word as if she lived, breathed and died each story. These vocals remain at the forefront throughout each lush piece as if drenching her listeners with a full-bodied wine while weaving them through the turbulent waters of No Love Lost.
The arrangements, liberal in their use of instruments but sparse yet indelible in their appearance, are deft as solos fade in and out, magically appearing and disappearing. Just as the listener becomes aware of the spectacular playing of one, such as the kick-ass harmonica on "Wrecking Ball", the sultry piano solo of "How Much In Love" or the striking trumpet of "The Young", another comes along to take its place as ghosts of almost forgotten romances.
Perhaps the most shocking song on the album in its unrecognizability is "Glamorous Life" made famous by Sheila E. Schutt takes a sledge hammer to the original, knocking the 'glamorous' right out, leaving the nakedness of the 'life' of a woman who chose to take a certain path concerning love.
No Love Lost, currently scaling effortlessly up Exclaim Magazine's Jazz charts and appearing on national top-ten jazz playlists, is a heart-wrenchingly beautiful work that you will find yourself reaching for longingly and lovingly.
reviewed by Laila Boulos September 2007