Championed by the likes of Guy Garvey and The National, British musician Kate Stables has followed her own path, writes Ed Power
ONE day many years ago Kate Stables’ father returned from a car boot sale with a novelty item under his arm. A collector of musical instruments, esoteric and otherwise, he’d spied a banjo amid the bric-a-brac and stumped up on the spot.
At home his daughter, an aspiring songwriter, picked it up and started strumming. She liked how it sounded — warm but with an edge, familiar yet with hints of the open road.
“My dad acquires musical instruments from sales,” Stables explains, “A one point he got a banjo. I started writing on it.”
Fans of contemporary English folk-rock will bowled over by the music Stables records as This Is The Kit. Wispy and just the right side of ethereal, she has, across a 12-year career, taken her place alongside Laura Marling and The Unthanks at the top table of acoustic British songwriters.
Among her prominent fans, Elbow’s Guy Garvey was such an enthusiastic cheerleader that he fronted a BBC radio documentary in which he argued her 2010 LP, Wriggle Out The Restless, deserved a Mercury Music Prize nomination (it didn’t receive one).
The secret ingredient to her writing, it can be argued, is its intensity. There’s an edge to her playing and, especially, her voice that keeps at bay the tweeness often an unfortunate byproduct of middle-class, home counties types donning waistcoats and bashing banjos.
Her journey has, moreover, been circuitous and then some. It is a supreme irony that Stables had to move to Paris in order to hone a distinctly British sound.
“Living in a foreign country widens your perceptions a bit,” she says, “I’m not saying that not living in a foreign country narrows your perceptions. But you’re used to meeting new people in new countries — for me, I found that I’ve learned stuff.” [ . . . ]
Read More: Acoustic endeavours pay off for This Is The Kit