Minimalism can get to you when it’s done right. Seeing just a few drawn lines come together and make a whole picture—tell a whole story—is stunning. (Of course, when done wrong you end up with a bunch of raised eyebrows wondering how a couple obscure shapes qualify as art.) On “Take It Up,” Katie Kuffel sings a beautiful, minimalist work of art. The sensual, bluesy tune reignites a genre that’s long overdue for a revitalized comeback. Blending the lyricism of folk with the desperation of blues and throwing in a little of the buoyancy of jazz, Kuffel’s song is a simple gem.
The singer/songwriter’s lyrics have a sense of playful poetry. Kuffel uses the lyrics to show off her personality. She sings through the tune’s catchy bridge
“I hate that I hate that without me you’d be happy enough.”
The song has its moments of being cheeky, but her words are also thoughtful and descriptive. We hear a fuller range of feelings, and in turn, get a more complete story, even with the figurative language keeping details vague. Listening to this song, I felt like I had a greater sense of who the artist was, and that made me want to listent to rest of the album.
Traditional blues music tends to be about the same tired subjects, focusing more on staying in blues form than branching out into anything exciting. “Take It Up” takes the sound and feeling of roots music and adds to it. Kuffel’s creative and edgy lyrics cast shadows throughout the song
“I’ve been scratching at scabs
and rolling my skin
I’m picking out imperfections
to try to blend in”
We can hear her obsession and the twisted back-and-forth love/hate relationship she’s going through.
It’s a nice contrast to the otherwise fluid deceptively romantic accompaniment. The song’s accompaniment is so stripped down that it allows Kuffel’s voice to take over your attention, and she does.
From her opening hums, she captivates listeners with the amount of control and passion in her voice. There’s not a single flaw in any part of her worldly register, which stretches from mischievous whispers to powerful belts and everything in between on just this one track. Her fun, trademark vocal harmonies only further demonstrate her vocal abilities.
Katie adapts her dynamic voice to suit each of the song’s different moods. Her sultry humming at the song’s introduction invites you into to the lustful, mysterious atmosphere she creates.
“Buff me to the bone
Take up my time
Don’t ever leave me alone”
But the tune only builds from there. She soon arrives at her lower range, drawing you further and further into her story until she eventually reaches the show-stopping belt that makes you wonder why she isn’t in a jazz club somewhere singing along with the greats.
What’s so interesting about “Take It Up” is how Kuffel’s shifting voice helps tell the story.
For the first several lines of the song, she’s joined by just a bass line and simple percussion, and it doesn’t get much busier than that. Kuffel’s voice provides all the movement and dynamics that keep the song leaning forward. It makes the stripped-down song sound honest. As you hang on to her every word, the narrative that’s being told from vibrato fill up the gaps in the song.
“Take It Up” refreshes a genre and manages to be a catchy, hum-along song while still being a song about the stops-and-goes of heartbreak and desire. Some contributions to roots music sound dated or like imitations, but “Take It Up” demonstrates that we can still sing the blues in 2018 and keep it modern.
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