Canadian Singer Songwriter and lionhearted truth teller Kate Fenner’s new album “Dead Reckoning” carries the existential weight of life, death and shared trauma on it’s shoulders, and as such becomes a challenge to sum up in words. It’s the palpable and unprecedented depth of the emotion and raw energy that is Kate Fenner‘s currency here. When facing genuine hardship, wisdom may rear it’s elusive head and all else seems trivial compared to it’s looming presence. Out of struggle and self-reflection, Kate Fenner has created an album beyond simplistic definitions and worthy of study. Kate’s uniquely powerful voice is both haunting and fragile throughout. For anyone dealing with loss, death or the relentless struggle in between, there are ample gems to discover throughout “Dead Reckoning”. In the tradition of artists like Joni Mitchell, Leonard Cohen and Patti Smith, this is indeed serious music dealing with intensely human themes.
Kate Fenner on Dead Reckoning: “When my friend Mike was dying in December of 2019, I came across an Amy Hempel poem about the failure of language when faced with things like death— “
At the end, I wanted to comfort him. But what I said was, Sing to it. The Arab proverb: When danger approaches, sing to it.”
Mike was not the first loss, nor was he to be the last, in the past few years of my life. My parents went, naturally; but it was the consecutive losses of my friends—bandmates, soulmates, mentors—that stung and bewildered; each one barely fifty years old when cruel variations on cancer made their way through my friends’ bodies, turning off all the lights.
In some cases, I was fortunate enough to be with them through this process, allowed to love and care for them at this most intimate juncture. In every case, I was tempted by the idea that I could make it better for them. That I could give them something to take with them, and they could leave something behind for me to hold, something slight but durable to set me in my life. In the end, all I felt I did was walk them to the threshold and watch them disappear. The term “dead reckoning,” apart from it signifying in this case just what it sounds like, is a navigational strategy to recalculate your position by estimating the direction, the drift, and the distance you’ve travelled.
I know life by definition is contoured by the loss of it. This time feels particularly burdened with loss, real and impending; maybe every time has felt that way. I’m left with love as the only defense—loving people and letting them know they were loved by you. Dead Reckoning really is a reckoning during a period of seemingly endless loss and an attempt to determine a “way of living that is not waiting,” as I recently heard poet Jorie Graham say in an interview. Singing is my way of loving, loving even danger. Here I sing to my friends, my parents; their ghosts; and to you. I hope you can hear it.”
Listen to ‘Dead Reckoning’ here: