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AAA Music | 23 September 2019

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MAMA KIN – The Magician’s Daughter

| On 11, Aug 2014

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Winner of a WAM Award for Folk Act of the Year 2013, and nominated for an AIR and ARIA Award for Best Blues and Roots Album 2013, Fremantle-based singer songwriter Danielle Caruana who goes under the stage name Mama Kin has recently released her fourth album.

The Magician’s Daughter is a soulful collection of songs based upon her own mother and her role as her magician-father’s assistant. To quote Mama Kin discussing her mother: “She was and still is engaged in the alchemy of performance, the importance that people believe, that they are left wondering if perhaps magic really does exist. She holds this knowledge and somehow weaves magic into her way (…) She is the ultimate magician, the holder and weaver of the smoke and mirrors, but some- how the truest believer.”

A rather stark and raw sound, the music has minimalist instrumentation and Jan Skubiszewski’s production is of the same vein. With interesting percussive beats (particularly the alluded water in ‘Red Wood River’ which is about a mother who loses her daughter in a river and the double-sided magic of the potential grief which comes with love) and few musical lines to make up the texture, Mama Kin’s voice acts as harmony, melody and also adds a percussive element. Most of the songs seem to have a blues influence, which is a cohesive theme and gives the album a feeling of being a ‘classic’.

Her voice is reminiscent of many great female singers; she alludes to the same barren passion of Tracy Chapman but with the energy of Joan Armatrading. The quieter, more intricate moments remind me of the sweetness of Birdy’s voice and there are certainly some Amy Winehouse moments. Mama Kin brings out different elements of these vocal personas in her songs; sometimes even within the same song. ‘One Too Many’ begins with a rather low and husky chest voice which soon rises to the more plaintive lament of the chorus; all the while bending between notes and with some Dylan-esque endings.

As for the songs themselves there is much contrast – some upbeat tracks and some pensive and ballad-like. ‘Was it Worth it’ is one of the rockier numbers with prominent bass, drumkit and sustained/echo effects on guitar, whereas ‘The River as She Runs’ is more understated in rhythmic drive but retains the intensity of sound with subtle folksy guitar and intimate production on the voice. I particularly like the understated percussion of ‘Cherokee Boy’; it is powerful in its repetitiveness and the dampened effect on all the percussion is a striking contributing factor to the huge gap texturally between Mama Kin’s voice and the percussion lines.

The Magician’s Daughter is well worth listening to and alludes to what I imagine to be a very special live performance.

Heather Ryall