The work on Kathy Muir’s first two albums has lead her here. Her third release Second Life is the summit of her accomplishment thus far and improves over her two fine past releases. If there’s any remaining justice in the modern music world, the merits of this effort should catapult her out of the indie scene and onto a much larger stage than she’s occupied so far. Muir’s approach is a blend of different influences and happily difficult to categorize. She’s certainly an advanced lyricist, a writer capable of exploring serious themes and narratives without ever overwriting. The same principle extends to her musical talents. The songs are crafted with an idea that they should do their job with the audience and get out with a minimum amount of fuss and not a single song falls short of that goal.
The first song assured to grab listener’s attention is “Better Man”. In some ways, the subject matter is rather familiar to anyone who listens to a lot of serious songwriters, but Muir spins it in a different direction. Much of the responsibility for that comes from her skill with characterizations – both central figures in this song emerge full-bodied from the song with the same level of significant detail one expects to find in a fine short story. “Stop Messin’ Me Around” is definitely a throwback number that does a fine job approximating a rockabilly attitude, but it is certainly much more lyrically sophisticated than the typical efforts in this vein while still remain great, raucous musical fun. She pulls everything close for the tender turn she takes with “I Want To Lay Down” and the plaintive wanting of the title is reflected in the lyrics. This is quite a beautifully wrought and patient song.
“Born by the Water” is certainly a little less sophisticated musically than what Muir has, to this point, spoiled us for, but it becomes clear soon enough that the primary focus here is lyrical rather than musical. Muir unleashes some poetic fireworks here, but they are decidedly low-key and never unnecessarily gaudy. There are a variety of interpretations and Muir’s playful vocal certainly seems to relish not entirely spelling things out for her listeners. She comes close to the blues with the immensely stylish and witheringly honest “Never Felt Like a Woman” – it will be difficult for anyone to not be impressed by the equal parts technique and sincerity required to make this song such a success. The contemplative and yet very proud “Like Warriors” harkens back to Muir’s folkie roots – it’s a nice interlude from the more frequent bouts of Sturm and Drang on the album’s second half. The closer, “Second Life”, is a title song very much from the school of making big statements. Fortunately, it highlights a forward looking vision for her life, and by extension her art, while never disavowing the experiences bringing her to where she is today. This sort of remarkable maturity and wisdom defines Second Life personally and artistically.
Aaron Ellis, Valhalla Music Blog