Kate Earl's debut has an understated glow about it, a quiet allure that comes from a bright, almost naïvely honest young singer working with a crew of sure-handed musicians. Earl migrated to Los Angeles from Chugiak, AK. That's near Anchorage. But she sounds at home in front of a California band that includes (at various points) Mitchell Froom, Michael Penn, Wendy Melvoin, members of Incubus, Dave Scher (Beachwood Sparks), and sound artist/pedal steel manipulator Chas Smith. Earl's vocals are throaty, expressive, and pristinely clear. She's a less strident Joss Stone over the winking strings of "Silence," but delicate and half-asleep on "Free," where Scher's pedal steel and the pump organ of Patrick Warren add hundreds of style points. Earl's songwriting on Fate Is the Hunter has some gravity -- she's a girl just trying to make her way in the world, or a lover, or lost thoughts and memories where darkness whispers amidst the happiness. But it's really her unadorned vocal over Hunter's finely rendered instrumentation that makes the record shimmer like an L.A. sunset. "Cry Sometimes" is a gorgeous cut, a slice of soft rock that goes back to Carly Simon or Rickie Lee Jones, and "Sweet Sixteen" is breezy with brushed acoustic strings and a great, vocal saxophone in a supporting role. "When You're Older" feels like the single -- it could be Tegan & Sara. That's not wrong, but it doesn't quite fit with tracks like the ambitious, steadily building "Anything" or the touching Alaska diary "Come This Far." That's OK. For a debut, Fate Is the Hunter hits its marks wonderfully, offering grace, gravity, simplicity, and well-played, well-placed instrumentation.
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AllMusic Review by Johnny Loftus