Album Review – Kimmi Bitter’s “Old School”

If you’re one of those souls that is charmed or cursed with a foreign feeling to this time and place, and one of the few antidotes is classic country records from either past stars or contemporary ones, this Kimmi Bitter debut album will land in your lap like manna from the gods.

Few of the other artists we’ve experienced in the modern era stun with their reinterpretation and revitalization of the classic sounds of music from the early sixties like Kimmi Bitter, in the country genre and beyond. It’s just as much about era to Kimmi Bitter as it is genre, but the epicenter of her passion and influence are the sounds of Patsy Cline and early Countrypolitan country. This is what populates the tracks of her exquisitely-crafted and delicately refined album Old School.

These are no close approximations. Down to every last note, texture, and square inch of this album, it feels like 1963 all over again. From the way the music is written, to the instrumentation, to the The Jordanaires-style chorus singing and even the little percussive additions, Kimmi and her collaborators did their homework and then some, and deserve a slow clap for capturing the era perfectly, if nothing else.

Kimmi Bitter has been at this for a while now. Dedicated followers of Saving Country Music are sure to have run across her stellar 2022 track “My Grass Is Blue” that was nominated for SCM’s Single of the Year, or 2023’s “Aquamarine.” The new album finally finds a home for these tunes, but it also delivers a host of new gems that meet the high expectations Kimmi set for her self with the early singles.

Expect the chill bumps to shoot down your arms and up your spine when you hear what sounds like a ghost from the black and white era of country billowing out of your speakers to sing the heartbreaking “I Can’t Unlove You.” You’ll have a good chuckle when you hear “Get Those Hands Where I Can See ‘Em,” while the guitar work on the song really kicks it up a notch and gives the record a little guts.

You get the sense that it kind of doesn’t matter what Kimmi Bitter sings, she sings it to the rafters, and all the songs here are great. Even though her music comes across as lots of style and imagery to evoke a specific era in a kind of kitschy way, this isn’t a gimmick. At this music’s heart is an incredibly gifted and emotive singer choosing to ply her craft in the classic country style, and we should count ourselves as infinitely lucky that she has.

Sure, some these songs will comes across to certain audiences as hokey. On a couple of tracks, Kimmi seems to stretch the whole “Old School” approach a little too far as opposed to starting with a good song idea first, and then making it fit her style. But at other turns she really stuns you with how smart she turns a phrase. This also feels like one of those albums that won’t just satisy some old school junkies, but might convert a few folks over to finding the appeal in this throwback style of country music too.

As a completely independent and self-made artist traveling around the country in her yellow van with her guitar player Willis Farnsworth and bass player Ben Neal, Kimmi Bitter also gives you someone cool to root for. Though you almost hate to pull the curtain back on the magic that is made on this album, it’s worth giving credit to Michael Gurley who is responsible for Old School‘s *chef kiss* production, and also helped co-write the songs. It’s this collaboration, along with pulling out all the stops, that puts Old School over the top.

You get the sense that in the years to come, Kimmi Bitter is going to be one of those names you start seeing pop up all over the place on cool festival lineups and populating important playlists. Old School establishes Kimmi Bitter as a serious contender in the realm of classic country, and one that help proves that classic country is cool again.


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