This review first ran in Bitch Magazine a while back.

What A Beautiful Place
Catherine Howe
{The Numero Group}

As freak folk artists like Sufjan Stevens and Joanna Newsome have hit it big, folk revival music has undergone an, um, revival. Vashti Bunyan, Linda Perhacs, Gary Higgins, Judee Sill — twee genius after twee genius has been unearthed, annointed, and brought back into print.

Catherine Howe hasn’t achieved the cachet of any of these artists — and its clear enough why. There’s very little freaky about her folk. She has none of the fey, cracked menace of some of her peers on the British folk scene. Nor does she possess the hip, mercurial bite of a Joni Mitchell or Neil Young. Instead, this, her first, extremely obscure 1971 album, is basically folk-pop — which is to say, it’s pop. The liner notes indicate that Howe’s a Burt Bacharach fan, and the record sounds suspiciously like a release by his other admirers, the Carpenters.

Not that there’s anything wrong with that. Howe’s voice, like Karen Carpenter’s, is a wonder — her pristine, rich tone drips with sunny yearning. The full orchestrated backing envelops her and the listener like an ocean of cream — sweet, overwhelming…and yes, a little cloying, especially on prolonged exposure. However, the high points validate the schmaltz. “Up North”, with its high, almost yodelled hook, is gorgeous, quietly epic nostalgia — as is the tinkling, horn-embellished “On A Misty Morning.” Best of all, the bonus track, “In the Hot Summer” nearly matches the repressed desperation in the Carpenter’s best work. That’s exciting enough in itself that I’ll probably be ordering Howe’s later albums from Amazon sooner rather than later.

My People Were Fair and Wore Sky in Their Hair: But now they’re content to pass out organic produce to the studio musicians.

By the Time We Got to Woodstock: We’d turned into a TV theme song.