The guy who wrote the liner notes for this long overdue album by Auckland singer-songwriter Hunter -- it was me actually -- says he can well remember the first time he saw her perform: it was over 15 years ago and she stood so far outside the self-proscribed parameters that most musicians put on themselves you couldn't help but be stunned.
Hunter rocked from powerchords to soft acoustic balladry, embarked on free-flying spoken word, had a slippery jazz quality, and at other times she sounded like a folk singer.
She was "alt" long before there was "alt", if you know what I mean.
She continued her idiosyncratic path for many years but with little reward or comprehension from critics, then these past few years took time off to study jazz. My guess is she probably could have taught her tutors a thing or two.
The result is this album which is much more musically coherent than her previous outings (do yourself a favour and find The Private Life of Clowns and InsideOutside however), and in places owes more than a little to the early sound of Tom Waits and Rickie Lee Jones.
But those are only the most obvious references and keen ears will hear much more in the emotional depth of these songs. And some strange soundbeds for her lyrics.
Karen Hunter is one of a kind, and this album is further proof of that.