Kate McDonnell,
Where the Mangoes Are
(Appleseed, 2005)

Kate McDonnell is an artist who combines a tender-sounding soprano voice and intelligent songwriting talents. Where the Mangoes Are, her fourth CD, features mostly original songs.

Originally from Baltimore and now living in New York, Kate lists her earliest musical influences as artists like Joan Baez, and since the mid-'90s has been performing and attracting the attention of folk artists like Tom Paxton, Leo Kottke and Bill Staines. She has also picked up quite a few songwriting awards. One of her unique talents is her self-taught guitar playing, which is strung for a right-handed player -- but she plays left-handed, upside down and backwards.

The CD's central theme is the range of emotions around relationships and love. The opening song, "Tumbleweed," is a folk-pop road song. "Hey Joe" (not the Jimi Hendrix song) looks at a troubled friendship. "Go Down Moses" looks at the more positive side of a relationship. "5:05" and "Luis" both deal with coping with and reflecting on the death of a friend. "Lemon Marmalade" has a slower, more seductive tone to it.

One of two cover songs is a beautiful, sad version of Steve Earle's "Goodbye Song." The other is a cheerful take on the traditional blues tune, "Railroad Bill." Two of the CD's best songs are "Softhearted Girl," which looks back on the end of a relationship, and "Mercy," a political song that got a lot of attention during the 2004 presidential election for its view of society where a "neighborhood gets smaller when Bush comes to shove."

Kate McDonnell is a fine example of an artist who is both a very good musician with a beautiful voice, and a very talented songwriter who writes good melodies and intelligent lyrics that you want to pay attention to.

by Dave Townsend
1 October 2005

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