Hazy Days
(Putumayo World Music, 1999)

You know how every once in a long while you come across a female vocalist whose singing defies description? Voices like Sarah McLachlan, Loreena McKennitt or Mary Fahl from October Project. Well, add another one to the list. Saying that Kathryn Roberts, lead singer of the U.K. band Equation, can sing is more than just an understatement. She's been singing "for as long as she can remember" and it shows.

But it isn't just Kathryn's voice that carries this band. Anyone who is a sucker for the violin/fiddle will agree that Seth Lakeman truly shines. Rounding out the band are James Crocker on electric guitar, Sean Lakeman on guitars, Iain "Basher" Goodall on drums, and Darren "Dazza" Edwards on bass guitar. More important than any individual in the band is how well they play in sync. You can tell that Equation has been together for several years. Their music flows together so smoothly. This is one of those bands that was meant to be. I wish I had discovered them sooner.

Hazy Days is the band's first U.S. release. And what a nice introduction to Equation's version of U.K. folk/pop it is. While a variation of the album was released first in the U.K. in 1998, most of the songs are the same (but in a different order). The only difference is that the U.S. version has the song "Strange Love" while the U.K. version has the song "Clueless."

The album starts out at a fast pace with "Kissing Crime." I have to skip this song in my car since dancing and driving don't mix! This bluegrass-like jig is by far the best dance song on the album.

The rest of the album, in contrast, is at a slower tempo, but still quite enjoyable. I constantly find myself tappin' my toes along with "Myself" -- the third track on Hazy Daze. I love the fiddle at the end. "What Did You Do Today," the most pop-like tune on the album, is very reminiscent of the Corrs.

My favorite song on the album is "Communion," a slow, emotional song which lifts my soul with more excellent violin playing. It brings me close to tears every time I hear it (and I'm a guy!), it is so beautifully arranged. Another song with great violin playing is "My World."

Let me get back to the vocals, though. Both "Strange Love" and "Choose Your Moves" bring me back to Kathryn's voice. The vocal harmonies in both songs are quite grabbing, but "Choose You Moves," while short, adds more exquisite violin playing. This song also wraps up this album very neatly.

So what is it I like best? The vocals or the violin? Hmmm. ... I don't know. Both are good and would be great by themselves. But they are that much more incredible together.

This is an excellent album. If you have enjoyed groups like the Corrs or October Project, I think you would find this group a welcome addition to your collection. There is not a bad song on it. I know it is the most-played CD I've acquired in the last six months.

[ by Wil Owen ]

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