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Kurt Wagner & Cortney Tidwell present KORT Invariable Heartache Review

Album. Released 2010.  

BBC Review

A record that seeps with clear-eyed hope, regret and wisdom.

James Skinner 2010

While Kurt Wagner’s role as bandleader in seminal soul/country/folk collective Lambchop sees him deal in multiple shades of deep-orange warmth, Cortney Tidwell’s solo career is often shaded by a kind of icy detachment; an engaging, beautiful coldness. At first glance they might not seem the most natural fit for an album of country takes from the 60s and 70s, but look a little deeper and Invariable Heartache makes perfect sense.

The genesis of this set lies in the cover of Don Williams’ I Believe in You that the pair performed at Nashville’s The Basement a couple of years ago – such was the reaction that working together more extensively became a priority (Wagner previously featured on Tidwell’s debut LP, Don’t Let the Stars Keep Us Tangled Up). Wagner’s credentials for the project are evident throughout his discography, though the Chart Records label that provides Invariable Heartache its songs was actually headed by Tidwell’s grandfather, Slim Williamson – then her father Cliff Williamson, featuring releases by her mother, the late Connie Eaton.

The two complement each other exceptionally well here, Tidwell sounding notably at ease in the plush surroundings provided by an experienced, multi-generational group of Nashville musicians. On She Came Around Last Night she offsets Wagner’s drawl with a sharp, longing vocal that could have leapt straight off any of the dusty vinyl they trawled for inspiration, while her turn on the closing Who’s Gonna Love Me Now? is at once seductive, highly affecting stuff, imbuing lines like "What good would missing you do?" with real pathos.

Wagner deserves plaudits for his rich production job as well as the customary glow his grizzled voice brings to proceedings (see April’s Fool in particular). His and Tidwell’s stated intent with KORT was to steer clear of any cheap kitsch or retro appeal, and instead hone in on "the beauty and simplicity" that this oft-misunderstood genre is capable of conveying. The duo has followed through admirably with Invariable Heartache, a record that seeps with clear-eyed hope, regret and wisdom.

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