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Album #356: Kirsty MacColl – Kite

  • Released: 1989
  • Origin: Croydon, England
  • Label: Virgin
  • Best Track: Mother’s Ruin

My last review was of a Pogues album after watching a programme about ‘Fairytale of New York’ on Friday. Of course, the other crucial figure in that song was Kirsty MacColl. In many ways, the song is as much hers as it is The Pogues’.

MacColl is not the only artist ever to die young, but with her death being so freakish and blameless on her part, at the hands of a bunch of careless spoilt morons on a speedboat, coupled with the sincerity and humility of her songs, it’s hard not to listen to them in the context of her tragically cut short life. This is especially the case with her cover of The Kinks’ ‘Days’, a simple expression of gratitude at being alive and having (or having had) someone to share that time with.

Her second album Kite is often viewed as her breakthrough, and this tender intimacy is just as apparent in her own songs. The country singalong of ‘Innocence’ gets things off to a rousing start, ‘Dancing in Limbo’ is stripped-down and enchanting, while ‘Mother’s Ruin’ could be my favourite track, where it almost feels like the Pogues’ Irish trad influence rubs off on her.

Jools Holland said on the programme that whether she was doing blues, folk, rock or country, Maccoll always seemed to “get it”. On Kite, she never sounds like she’s winging it and is always in control. And while it could be easy to wallow in sadness with this record, it was uplifting to hear her mother say she only feels happiness when she hears her songs.

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