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The Mechanics of Hovering Flight

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Album Review

With her fifth solo collection (and second for indie legends K Records), Pacific-Northwesterner Kendl Winter brings her bluegrass-touched indie folk to a new plateau in terms of songwriting and production. Expanding on 2010's beautiful Apple Core, Winter's songs on The Mechanics of Hovering Flight swing a wide emotional pendulum, her slightly raspy voice soaring between uplifting banjo-picking romps and wine-soaked old-timey country melancholia. On the later, Winter's voice dips into a Southern dip-thong, as on the waltz-time of "Faded", where she croons bright-eyed-but-sorrowful lines about driving through Utah and a detached helplessness in watching love fade away. Elsewhere there are hints of social and environmental consciousness. These undercurrents prop up breezy album opener "Summertime", juxtaposing an airy arrangement of stand-up bass and sleepy drums with understated lyrics about sustainability and picking up the pieces. Backed up by a plethora of Northwest musicians, Winter's songs crackle with the added flair of Austin Cooper's jittery percussion, synth and string players. There's also the K Records tradition the inclusion of a large group chorus adding a communal air to the triumphant refrain of "All The Birds". While Winter's first few home-recorded albums never suffered from the typical jagged edges DIY indie recordings often can, there was always an insular quality to their sound, even in her collaborations with other musicians. The Mechanics of Hovering Flight marks her first stray from self-recording, and Calvin Johnson's production opens up the album with a roominess and attention to small details that was absent in earlier works. This open-air sound is a great fit for the songs. With one foot in a deeply traditional neo-bluegrass sound not unlike Gillian's Welch's and the other in a darkly dreamy indie identity unafraid to explore and experiment, Mechanics shows Winter hitting her stride and finding a way to marry the two halves of her sound gracefully and organically.


Born: Olympia, Washington

Genre: Alternative

Years Active: '10s

Olympia, Washington-based singer/songwriter Kendl Winter honed her distinctive of blend of country, bluegrass, and indie folk as a member of folk-punk band the Pasties, bluegrass quartet Blackberry Bushes, Americana duo Southern Skies, and indie rock outfit It's All Gotta Go. The Arkansas native started releasing solo work in 2006 with the homespun album Still Life on French Road Records. Putting to use her proficient banjo, Dobro, and guitar skills, Winter reworked several of her tunes from the...
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