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February 2024
Vol. 23, No. 5
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CD Reviews

CARA CORMIER: Kansas Stories

by Lauren LeighFebruary 2024

Cara Cormier’s debut album, Kansas Stories, is an unpretentious collection of cheeky folk stories with killer hooks and seriously gorgeous instrumentation. Released in October of last year and produced by Jeff Berkley at Satellite Studios, this 12-song album is a powerful first show of substance from Cormier. While she may be new to the music and songwriting game, her writing style and melodic hooks are easy to connect with and playfully self-aware. This may be a result of her having her MFA in playwriting—she is intimately familiar with writing about the human experience.

The album is delicately seasoned with proverbial folk songs taken from Cormier’s life observations. At times beautifully reminiscent of medieval bards with a fun modern twist (“Solo Quest” and “The Greatest Living Artist” specifically), she weaves honest takes on everything from a campfire crush to a bluesy gospel dedication to current pop sensation Oliva Rodrigo.

The literal honesty in her writing seems to be what captures true laughter from the listener. In “Smitten with You,” she sings “You don’t like Tom Waits. You wear ugly shoes. And I’m wonderfully, hopelessly, desperately smitten with you.” In “Cookie Cutter Terra Cotta Bullshit Blues” Cormier sings about being over the same-same one percenters of the world after getting lost in a Hollywood town with houses that all look alike. Her quick wit, coupled with a big band, New Orleans grab feel will have you singing along by the last chorus.

Notably, Cormier’s backing band consists of members of Jeff Berkely and the Banned, all multi-SDMA award-winning musicians. Accompanying Cormier, with outstanding backing and lead vocals, are Josh Taylor and Sandi King of the King Taylor Project and Joshua Taylor and the Unscene. Stand-out performances include Shawn Rohif (mandolin on “Smitten with You” and banjo on “Miss It Like Hell (and I’m never going back),” and “I’ll Roost With You”) and Berkley’s own picking on “The Greatest Living Artist” bringing an epic Emerson Lake and Palmer vibe to the album’s closer.

When asked to comment about his experience with Cormier, Berkley said, “What a joy it was to produce this record! Cara is a profoundly and authentically talented writer and performer! Her songs find that place in the listener that makes them go, ‘Wait, I thought I was the only one who felt that way!’ I’m astounded by her words every time!”

Sandi King, whose backing vocals provided an angelic landing pad for Cormier, said, “Cara was such a joy to work with and getting to know her while working these songs out in the studio was so wonderful. She is hilarious and awesome!”

Keep your eyes open for future shows to be announced by Cara soon, and give Kansas Stories a spin on your commute.

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