‘Dead Reckoning’, the new album from Canadian singer songwriter Kate Fenner, is filled with a palpable emotion and raw energy.
While Fenner’s vocals might not be to everyone’s taste, they are nonetheless rich and evocative, and join a pantheon of others whose lyrical and musical ability and passion far outweigh anything else. Comparisons could well be made to Leonard Cohen in this regard, as Fenner’s lyrics are emotive poetry, just as Cohen’s.
Fenner’s vocals are haunting in their fragility and vulnerability, powerful throughout the entire 11 tracks on the album, as she traverses the relentless struggle between loss and death. The immensely human themes of ‘Dead Reckoning’ will find a relatable centre for most listeners.
We recommend listeners hear the entire album before making any judgements about whether they like it or not. There is something for everyone – in our case, it was the final song, ‘Firefly’, which spoke to us most of all. Gentle and serene, Fenner sings an eulogy to her friend, but it could work well for anyone. We have have had plenty of friends and family members pass over to the other side, whose lives could easily be the one described in this song. Hopefully this will be found by someone needing a suitable alternative to the classic funeral songs; it deserves its time in the sun.
Speaking about ‘Dead Reckoning’, Fenner said,
“When my friend Mike was dying in December of 2019, I came across an Amy Hempel poem about the failure of language when faced with things like death— “
At the end, I wanted to comfort him.
But what I said was, Sing to it. The
Arab proverb: When danger approaches, sing to it.”
Mike was not the first loss, nor was he to be the last, in the past few years of my life. My parents went, naturally; but it was the consecutive losses of my friends—bandmates, soulmates, mentors—that stung and bewildered; each one barely fifty years old when cruel variations on cancer made their way through my friends’ bodies, turning off all the lights.
In some cases, I was fortunate enough to be with them through this process, allowed to love and care for them at this most intimate juncture. In every case, I was tempted by the idea that I could make it better for them. That I could give them something to take with them, and they could leave something behind for me to hold, something slight but durable to set me in my life. In the end, all I felt I did was walk them to the threshold and watch them disappear. The term “dead reckoning,” apart from it signifying in this case just what it sounds like, is a navigational strategy to recalculate your position by estimating the direction, the drift, and the distance you’ve travelled.
I know life by definition is contoured by the loss of it. This time feels particularly burdened with loss, real and impending; maybe every time has felt that way. I’m left with love as the only defense—loving people and letting them know they were loved by you. Dead Reckoning really is a reckoning during a period of seemingly endless loss and an attempt to determine a “way of living that is not waiting,” as I recently heard poet Jorie Graham say in an interview. Singing is my way of loving, loving even danger. Here I sing to my friends, my parents; their ghosts; and to you. I hope you can hear it.”
‘Dead Reckoning’ is out now, and can be streamed on Spotify. Find out more about Kate Fenner and her music online on Facebook, Instagram, Spotify, Bandcamp, SoundCloud, and YouTube.