A Bee In Her Mouth
Black Guillemot Music.
SCQ Rating: 74%
Thanks, Daniel Lanois. Sure I suppose there have been several occasions I could’ve written an open letter of appreciation for your work (on the heels of Emmylou Harris’ Wrecking Ball or a slew of Brian Eno’s highlights, for example) but instead I’m thanking you for an album you didn’t even know existed. That’s right – A Bee In Her Mouth was sparked into being after a public talk in which you instructed those in attendance to trust their instincts and “be reckless”. Nova Scotia based songwriter Steve Gates happened to be in that crowd.
You’d be super proud of that forgotten speech, now. While Gates’ songwriting hardly comes off as reckless – in fact, “Godforsaken” and “Five White Tigers” sound as studied in roots-rock and melancholy as just about anything I’ve heard this year – his execution gives these folk arrangements a gusto that heartens the set’s occasional strings and horns. The disc branches out on the latter half with vague Motown touches (“Something New”) and harmonica-blowin’, call-and-answer folk verses (“Keepin People Out”) – left turns that betray Gates’ early string of full-bodied and modern folk songs. All the same, Mr. Lanois, A Bee In Her Mouth showcases a multi-talented songwriter hunting down his voice; whether it ends up earnest (as on “Proud Convey It”) or road-weary from wandering folk’s many avenues (“Tonight”), Steve Gates looks to become your greatest unintended.