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GRACE CUMMINGS Refuge Cove gets 7.5/10


Grace Cummings

Refuge Cove
Flightless

7.5/10

Refuge Cove, Grace Cummings’ debut for King Gizzard’s label Flightless, is a pleasant surprise and a study in how to work brilliantly to one’s strengths.

From the opening strums and harmonica on The Look You Gave, there’s no mistaking the primary influence of this album. Cummings has crafted a Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan part two, and like that classic effort this album doesn’t extend much beyond three chords on an acoustic and a voice. With such an obvious influence and a limited musical palette, it feels like this shouldn’t work. Instead, Refuge Cove is surprisingly effective and a testament to the strength of Cummings’ voice and songwriting.

For one thing, all the songs are memorable. Cummings has a beautiful voice and her changes in intonation are enough to bring life to all these tracks. The Look You Gave is mournful and ragged, Cummings’ voice tearing at the seams at the end of each verse. Other Side is starry-eyed and hopeful, an inward-looking take on Blowing in the Wind. “I have to suffer all that I’m thinking/ And fall with the luck of the tumbling dice,” Cummings sings, one of many great turns of phrase across a lyrically dark album that deals with life’s trials and tribulations. Lullaby for Refuge Cove follows, a mournful ballad with some beautiful, understated piano work. Sleep is a powerful mid-tempo track about accepting one’s faults and boasts another killer line: “I could be the elected/ Not rejected from the heavens in the sky”.

It’s followed by Lullaby for Buddy, a track so minimal that you can hear the microphone hiss. It highlights the strength of the album’s song selection in creating dynamic contrasts within a relatively narrow musical range. There Flies a Seagull comes next and, by upping the tempo and introducing just a hint of a guitar lick, it feels much louder than it is. It’s also the album’s strongest track and Cummings’ best vocal on the album, her warbling sustain recalling Jefferson Airplane’s Grace Slick at her finest. Closer In The Wind sees Cummings adopt a smokier tone in a slice of folk noir that’s as much early Tom Waits as it is Dylan.

Overall, Cummings’ intentionally derivative Dylanisms make this album a specific recommendation, but it also boasts consistently strong tunes and has a great flow across its modest 30 minute runtime. Fans of Dylan will prick their ears, but anyone who likes raw folk should take notice of Cummings as a fresh new Australian talent.

MATIJA ZIVKOVIC

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