CD Review of Apple Tree by Katie Herzig
Katie Herzig: Apple Tree
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Katie Herzig: Apple Tree

Reviewed by Lee Zimmerman

B
eing that Katie Herzig’s career has been amazingly successful so far, there’s naturally a certain level of expectations for her new effort, Apple Tree -- the sort of anticipation that greets any relatively new artist who’s been critically acclaimed, but still drifts well below the surface as far as the masses are concerned. Having been hailed by the press as one to watch, and attracting the kind of buzz that usually indicates an imminent breakthrough, Herzig’s been wise to plot her course carefully. While it may have been tempting to up the ante on production values and forsake her usual breathy delivery in hopes of making her music a bit more radio-ready, she’s chosen instead to stay faithful to both her muse and motif. It’s fortuitous, then, that she continues to maintain her carefree sway and swoon through a set of songs that proves to be her strongest effort yet.

Herzig’s trajectory began as a member of the Colorado combo Newcomers Home, whose numerous albums provided an apt launching pad for her animated and expressive style. Her first solo effort, Watch Them Fall, attracted further notice, but it was Weightless, its follow-up, that proved the worth of her songwriting, and eventually gained her entry onto NPR, KCRW’s prestigious "Morning Becomes Eclectic" program and primetime exposure through NBC’s hit drama "Grey’s Anatomy." Featured status on the "Ten out of Tenn" and "Hotel Café" tours, and supporting roles for Dar Williams and Shawn Colvin, elevated her further into the spotlight and helped shore up her status.

Happily, Apple Tree doesn’t fall far from the niche she’s carved for herself. It’s both quirky and reverential, mining playful sounds while finding appropriate reflection when the music makes it appropriate to do so. It’s the sort of record that begs repeated listens to catch every nuance, and yet can be enjoyed even during a cursory encounter while soaking up its cheery optimism. Opening track "Songbird" skips along sweetly, as lightly as its title suggests, before becoming engulfed in a surge of guitars, violins and tangled atmospherics. "I Want to Belong to You" is similarly seductive, full of puckish whimsy, with a gentle lilt and sway. The lazy sprawl that graces "Wish You Well," the agitated urgency of "Hologram," the punch-drunk pulse and whistle elevating "How the West Was Won" and the gypsy strum bestowed on "Sumatra" all reflect the various hues with which she colors her material, a further reflection of the imagination and ingenuity that’s so vital to her delivery.

While some songs seem to float, as if in an ethereal orb, Herzig grounds her material in a basic pop premise, be it the percolating pulse of "I Will Follow" or the giddy optimism of "Foevermore." There’s both joy and passion expressed in Herzig’s musings, and that makes this Apple Tree that much more succulent indeed.

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