Album Review: Kristin Hersh – Wyatt at the Coyote Palace

Twenty four tracks, two cds and an accompanying book with complete lyrics, photos, essays and a recipe for hookers gazpacho, Kristin Hersh releases an absorbing and immersive solo epic.

Named after her son and his fascination with an abandoned building behind Hersh’s studio that became a home to coyotes but retained human furnishings, it’s a suitable metaphor for the pervasive wildness and magic Hersh conjures from her stories and songs.

Playing all instruments, writing all words, taking all pictures, collecting all field recordings and making killer gazpacho, this massive project was five years in the birthing and is a masterpiece of artistic vision from a member of royalty in the seminal American alternative scene. Fans of the Pixies and early REM will find plenty love and of course those who know Hersh’s earlier work with Throwing Muses and 50FOOTWAVE will want to be adding this to their Christmas lists post haste.

Thematically we are treated to tales of near death, juvenile overdoses and relationship drama flecked with caustic wit and idiosyncratic turns of phrase. The music, while rooted in acoustic guitar and growled vocals also twists and takes left turns regularly enough to keep you on your toes and expands to include cellos, distorted maniacal electric guitars and effect ridden harmonies.

Taken altogether you get a rare insight into the materials a great songwriter and artist needs and uses to create alchemy. A polished and enjoyable listen that still feels DIY with warts left on display. Hersh says we get the book as a thank you for allowing her to be our soundtrack and because cds have been so devalued. It can sometimes be a little unusual listening with a companion book, but it pays off and is worth the extra effort adding depth and perspective to the songs and creating an experience that transcends the confinements of a traditional album.

On the theme of near death or major life experiences Hersh quotes her son, Wyatt:

when the unthinkable happens, we die: we cross a threshold and start a new life

If so the evidence here suggests Ms Hersh has lived quite a number of different lives. Each of them seems to have inspired a song that I’m happy to have as part of the sound track to my own. “There’s no tomorrow” sings Hersh in ‘Bubble Net’ there’s only the vibrant moment, the potential start of a myriad of different lives and anyway, all our fragile plans and domestic trappings will one day be the domain of Wyatt’s coyotes.

Review by Sean Daly

Watch the video for Soma Gone Slapstick below:

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