Gregory And The Hawk: Moenie And Kitchi

On paper, Gregory and the Hawk reads like a full band but the obvious star is singer-songwriter Meredith Godreau (in fact she adopted the name to avoid being pigeon-holed as a female singer-songwriter) who was discovered by FatCat quite by accident when the native New Yorker appeared onstage and stunned those at the Brooklyn bar with her captivating voice and songs. It was hardly her coming-out, however: after establishing the group in 2003, Godreau recorded the 2006 Boats And Birds EP with Mike McGuire, bassist Jeff Ratner, and drummer Adam Christgau, and followed it with 2007's In Your Dreams with McGuire and Susan Ambrose. Though the latter two again participate, Moenie and Kitchi shifts gears by bringing Adam Pierce (Mice Parade) aboard as producer and instrumentalist; apparently, Pierce plays many instruments on the album too, and, given the percussive prowess he's brought to his own releases, it doesn't surprise that the drumming on Moenie and Kitchi is so robust (not to mention high in the mix). There's also an appealing live feel to the material, in part due to the fact that most of the vocals and guitars were recorded together in single takes.

The most obviously striking thing about Moenie and Kitchi is Godreau's voice, a soft and girlish instrument that possesses an undeniable charm that draws the listener in immediately, but her songwriting's strong too. On the splendid opener “Oats We Sow,” her agile voice nimbly glides over a lush backing (interestingly, the opening word “Someday” and its melody echo the standard “The Way You Look Tonight”) while the plain-spoken vocal-and-acoustic guitar piece “August Moon” finds her comfortably inhabiting Marissa Nadler territory, as does the haunting folk incantation “Stone Wall Stone Fence”—at least during those moments when the band isn't tearing it up with a fierce episode. The music's at its most effective when it's reduced to voice and acoustic guitar, as on “Super Legend,” where her soft singing navigates the melodic changes with athletic ease, and on “Harmless,” which backs her haunting vocal melodies with electric guitar only; with its willowy acoustic guitars and simple drum machine beat, “Two Faced Twin” closes the album nicely too. She repeatedly displays her gift for crafting delicious vocal melodies, with “Don't you run away” (“Two Faced Twin”) and “You've got a secret but you won't share it” (“Stone Wall Stone Fence”) merely two examples of many. If there's a weakness to her singing, it's that it's sometimes not powerful enough to cut through the full-frontal guitar swagger the music sometimes rises to (the rollicking drum attack in “Ghost” almost buries Godreau's voice under billowing horns, cymbals, and tom-toms). Nevertheless, Moenie and Kitchi, which at slightly more than a half-hour is short by conventional album standards, impresses with its mix of uplifting ballads and delicate folk-waltzes and strongly argues for Godreau as a talent of some note.

December 2008