“Why” and why not

Hearing Kate Schrock’s Invocation
By SAM PFEIFLE  |  May 28, 2008
beat_KateSchrock_053008insi
A SOFT TOUCH: But with visceral power.

Invocation | Released by Kate Schrock | at the St. Lawrence Arts Center, in Portland | May 30 | at Old Port Festival, in Portland, WCLZ stage | June 1
I don’t care if you’re [whomever the most famous woman vocalist is right now — Kelly Clarkson?]: If you finish up a gig in Lexington, Kentucky, and Glen DaCosta walks up and tells you y’all are going to work together? That’s pretty flattering. DaCosta’s one of those men behind the men, a guy who played trumpet on Kaya and a bunch of other Marley discs (I picked Kaya ’cuz I’m an “Is This Love” fan), plus stuff with Yellowman, Alpha Blondy, Scratch Perry and the Upsetters, Burning Spear, Toots and the Maytals — well, lots of cats. He’s a reggae pioneer.

This guy asks you to jet down to Jamaica to record, you’re pretty much on the first plane.

Hence, our own Kate Schrock’s Invocation, a new album featuring DaCosta, recorded mostly at the Studio with Steve Drown, but with “additional tracking” in Jamaica, at King Medori Studio. I’m guessing local studio stalwarts like Ginger Cote (drums), brother Nate Schrock (bass and guitar), Steve Jones (guitar), Marc Chillemi (trumpet), and Nyah Henderson (bass) did their work in Maine, while DaCosta laid down an assortment of sax, flute, and various other horns in his hometown. The production is flawless, so you’d never know they weren’t all in the same room, but there are songs here that speak of Jamaica and others that are more like the Portland-suburb Schrock you’re already down with.

“Soul in U,” at song three on the new disc, is the first with a dub open, heavy on the two-tone upstroke. Schrock’s delivery, always clean and soulful with hardly ever a throwaway line, doesn’t change much for the verses here, but she seems to ride the reggae vibe in the uplifting chorus: “Is it the soul in you that I’m seeing through to tonight?/Ain’t there nothing I can do to comfort you in your flight?” There’s some crisp right-hand piano work in the bridge, and the guitar and sax develop nice chemistry by the finish.

Schrock gets all kinds of Rasta with “Message to Babylon,” though, opening with an “I and I,” emphasizing her oneness with the Jamaican people, and riding a thrumming bass line that’s allowed to take center stage mid-song. This is a genuinely hot tune, going beyond smart songwriting into fun, pop reggae. This is what happens when you work with new musicians — you get taken out of your comfort zone and into material Schrock likely wouldn’t have felt comfortable addressing on her own. It’s authentic not just because of DaCosta’s pedigree, but because you believe it on the first listen.

I never really believed Dylan’s “I and I,” from Infidels, and I’m just okay with Schrock’s take on his “I Will Remember You.” Her tone is great from the open, and I like the distorted guitar and muted trumpet, but the lyrics just make me think of that Sarah McLachlan tune and I prefer not to be reminded of her when listening to Schrock. They’re both women and play piano, but I think less and less that they have much in common.

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