It's a bit of a shock when somebody comes along out of the blue, never heard of her at all, and she's clearly fully formed as an artist, at the top of her game already. Kacey Cubero is that person, a Washington DC native relocated to California and now recording in Nashville. This is actually her second cd, and comes on the back of several years devotion to her writing and performing - high quality work like this is usually nine parts perspiration to one part inspiration.
Fill Your Cup represents Kacey's personal synthesis of much that has been best in the Country/ Americana fields in the last fifteen years. From Reserve The Right, with it's Nashville mainstream rocking country, through several very Lucinda Williams influenced numbers that have a sultry, bruised soulfulness right through to some bluegrass style songs, there's a pretty eclectic mix here. At no time, though, does it sound like she's trying on a musical hat for the sake of it. She absolutely inhabits these songs as if she's caught there in the spotlight, a conduit bewteen wherever they come from and us, the audience. She's got a great voice, warm and emotion-laden so that she sounds like she's totally wrapped up in the song; she's singing close to the mic and doesn't have to do any projection until she gets to the bluegrass material, steps back a little and maybe does that peculiarly American trick of projecting from the throat without opening the mouth much. If I haven't explained that very well, think Dan Tyminski.
The copy I've got doesn't give full instrumentation credits so I really don't know who's responsible for the lovely pedal steel playing or some very fine keyboards - some Hammond organ on What If I Really Love You and a laid-back late-night piano accompaniment to Watcha Gonna Do, the album closer. What I do know, however, is that Josh Davis' guitar playing comes as close as manners allow to be the co-star on this recording. The man is inspired and it's a thrill to be listening to what he might come up with next, on whatever sort of guitar he happens to be playing. It's a measure of Kacey Cubero's own skill as a performer, as a singer in particular, that she's not overshadowed by this competition. The epitome of their success as a musical marriage comes on Under My Skin, a very sensual, Lucinda-ish song, where Kacey's smoky, sultry vocal performance - all bruised sensitivity - is paralelled by Josh Davis's sinuously liquid guitar playing; the two of them make up two sides of the same emotional coin and this is shivers up the spine stuff. Later on, they pull off a different version of the same trick when they trade the lead on the electric blues of Set You Free, sounding like this is the only music they ever play.
I guess if there's a weakness to this album it is that it's a mite too eclectic for it's own good; Set You Free is an intense blues piece which sits fine enough with the poignantly quiet Sunday Mornings, but these two songs sandwich Feather In The Wind, very light on its feet and happy-go-lucky in comparison and the mood just doesn't flow. It's a small complaint, really. Kacey Cubero and her band are top notch in every respect, probably only a short time away from being major league.