by / October 21st, 2010 /

Kurt Wagner and Cortney Tidwell (KORT) – Invariable Heartache

 3/5 Rating

(City Slang)

There’s no happy outcome to be had with this album. It’s called Invariable Heartache, tracks are named ‘Incredibly Lonely’ and ‘Who’s Gonna Love Me Now?’ and it is sung in part by Kurt Wagner, the trucker hat wearing, low key everyman from Lambchop. He has teamed up with Cortney Tidwell, a relatively unknown singer in these here parts but a Nashville queen on the country scene due to her lineage. Her grandfather ran Nashville’s Chart Records, her mother was country singer Connie Eaton and her father was the producer Cliff Williamson.

The opening track introduces us to both voices together, soft and whisperingly sweet, the sound hovers. It’s an unsure beginning but Kurt emerges as the victor, his voice stronger than Tidwell’s. All of the songs on Invariable Heartache are covers of songs on Chart Records’ back catalogue from the 1960s and 1970s. They vary from standard country schmaltz to sombre ballads of loss and loneliness.

‘A Special Day’ opens with Tidwell on her own and she doesn’t hold the song well as a soloist. Her voice is fine but more often than not it seams weak and perfunctory. It’s the songs themselves that keep your attention and they really come into their own when Kurt’s at the helm being helped along by Tidwell coming in as a harmonising voice. ‘She Came Around Last Night’ is a heartbreaking song which is brought to life by the simultaneous strength and openness of Wagner’s singing. ‘Penetration’ is a bizarre little interlude, consisting of one minute, 11 seconds of a jazzy, ambient instrumental section which then launches into a solid rhythm filled with plinking keys and soft descants. ‘I Can’t Sleep With You’ promises to be a very interesting song by virtue of subject matter alone but the lyrics reveal themselves to be “…on my mind”. What is it with country songs and unfulfilled innuendo?

The final track, ‘Who’s Gonna Love Me Now’, is a cover of a song originally recorded by Tidwell’s mother but unfortunately the vocals again seem weak and just not emotional enough to carry the feeling of the song. The album is a great idea and is worth listening to for Kurt Wagner’s voice and the excellent song selection. Cortney Tidwell would have played a blinder as a backing vocalist instead of a shared lead though.

Listen: Spotify | Bandcamp | Soundcloud | Youtube

  • Neas

    Okay I’m sorry but I have to disagree. I think Cortney Tidwell sings beautifully all over this album (as solo and backing vocalist). I love Kurt Wagner’s voice (writing as a long-term fan here) but I think her fragile tone works really well on “A special day” in particular. To me this is one of the album’s highlights. I don’t think it sounds weak. In fact I reckon it really suits both music and theme throughout. As a truly delightful country album, I’m of the opinion that both voices blend very well.