ALBUM REVIEW: Rich rewards for a northern soul singer who chose to ‘jump in feet first’
I Can and I Will, Kat Brittain, Self-Released, Out Now
West Norfolk singer-songwriter Kat Brittain has built an audience among followers of northern soul in South Holland as lead singer with The Soft Tone Needles.
But Kat, of King’s Lynn, also has her own band that includes fellow “Needlers” Dave Jackson (drums) and Mark Wilkinson (saxaphone) both of Long Sutton, and another King’s Lynn native, trumpeter Dave Maddison.
Just over a year since forming her band to contest the annual Twisted Melon Battle Of The Bands event in King’s Lynn, Kat has produced her debut album, I Can and I Will.
Kat said: “The album is a bit of a different vibe from The Soft Tone Needles as it’s a cocktail of all my favourite musical influences, including pop, soul, jazz and downright catchy tunes.
“I’ve been writing music for a few years now but I’ve never been quite brave enough to take the front and centre spot as playing original music is a lot different from performing a function set.
“You have to bare your soul and your stories to the world which can be extremely daunting, but in 2016 I took the plunge and started my own band, with myself as the featured artist.
“I was thrilled with the reception myself and my band were given and as the band grew rapidly, both in size and reputation, I made up my mind to jump in feet first and record an album.”
However, not a single northern soul classic can be heard anywhere on the 13-song album as Kat delivers a collection of songs inspired by her own favourite influences of pop, jazz and traditional soul instead.
Apart from the stark number Writer’s Block, where Kat’s vocals are paired with the keyboard skills of co-writer Ivan Garford, the vast majority of the songs are a throwback to Bananarama and Swing Out Sister.
The album is a bit of a different vibe from The Soft Tone Needles as it’s a cocktail of all my favourite musical influences, including pop, soul, jazz and downright catchy tunes
The results of Kat’s song-writing partnership with Dave Maddison appear at the album’s entrance with The Beginning, book-ended by the title track and the filling in-between of The Worst Is Yet To Come.
With its strong brass content and acoustic pulse, this is the song closest to Kat’s new habitat of northern soul after joining The Soft Tone Needles last year.
Kat said: “I underestimated what a huge undertaking it would be to record an album and the hardest part was organising ten musicians to play the same music at the same place and at the same time.
“The musicians I worked with are incredibly talented and I am forever grateful for their time.
“But when you work with great musicians they’re always busy and I spent hours driving backwards and forwards, working on the parts with different people, as well as working two jobs to pay the bills.
“When I wasn’t out doing that, I was at home writing music and the whole process took over my life for a long time. “But I wouldn’t change a thing as it made it all the more important to me and gave me the drive to keep working.”
The most prolific song-writing partnership featured on I Can and I Will is Kat’s with Scott Hunter, together responsible for six of the songs, including No Trust in the System, The Things You’ll Do and Boys Boys Boys.
However, the album features two songs that take Kat Brittain into a different calibre altogether and potentially onto an international scale.
Sunny Day, another of the Brittain and Hunter numbers, could have been mistaken for a track taken off an album by Adele or Alison Moyet.
With its slower, smoother, silkier approach, Sunny Day is a song crying out for a wider airplay and audience.
Kat said: “Sunny Day was inspired by the jazz music I listened to as a kid.
“Although I try not to base songs on things I’ve heard, obviously it just happens sometimes and I am a fan of Adele.
“To make the album, I worked with a fantastic producer called VIBES (based in Guildford, Surrey) who I met during my time at university.
“VIBES is incredibly patient and creative so I am very grateful that I got to work with him as he pushed to get the best from me and transformed my ideas into something real and better than I could ever have imagined.
“Once the music was mixed and mastered, I then had to name the album, design the artwork and promote the launch.”
But even better than Sunny Day is the album’s high watermark, Turn Your Fire On, which bears all the hallmarks of Oleta Adams’ 1991 UK top five hit Get Here.
This one song, co-written by Nick Ruddock, gives listeners a tantalising taste of the upward curve that Kat Brittain could suddenly find herself riding if, or rather when, I Can and I Will falls into the right hands.
Kat said: “I wrote Turn Your Fire On about four years ago with a friend and it was originally written to be a bit of an R Kelly-esque ‘slow jam’ type of song.
“But I rearranged it for the album and, hopefully, it will be as inspiring for others to listen to as it was for me to write.
“A lot of the time I try to write stories when I’m creating lyrics, but it’s only with a second look that I realise they often ring true.
“For me, I Can and I Will is about overcoming the odds and giving your all.
“The title of the album has always been a bit of a mantra for me and has taken me through some nerve-wracking and stressful musical experiences.
“The album starts with a track called The Beginning which represents the struggle, doubt and worry you feel whenever you put yourself out there and embark on something like this.
“I learned quickly that lots of people thought it would be a waste of time, that I shouldn’t bother and should instead invest in something more ‘realistic’.
“But that’s never really appealed to me and although the whole album is modern, upbeat and ‘feelgood’ in style, there are hidden truths spread throughout the lyrics if you know where to look for them.”
Once it does hit the mainstream music market, Kat could find herself catapulted onto the same cycle of fame as Nadiya Hussain, winner of The Great British Bake Off in 2015 and who used the very same five words when she took the TV cookery contest crown.
Nadiya famously said: “I’m never gonna put boundaries on myself ever again, I’m never gonna say ‘I can’t do it’, I’m never gonna say ‘Maybe’ and I’m never gonna say ‘I don’t think I can.’
“I can and I will.”
Kat said: “I wanted to set the album out like a journey, with all of my thoughts and processes growing up and then finally finishing with The End (I Can And I Will).
“I am immensely proud of my achievements and I hope that my album inspires other young local musicians to strive for their best self, despite the struggle it may be.”
I Can and I Will is available by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org
Review and interview by Winston Brown