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Song You Need to Know: KT Tunstall, ‘The River’

Pedal-loop loving singer-songwriter finds vindication on the other side of fame

KT Tunstall, 2018

KT Tunstall, 2018


This Scottish singer-songwriter has churned out reliably solid albums since “Black Horse and the Cherry Tree” launched her career in 2005 with a pedal-loop heard around the world. These days when Ed Sheeran plays entirely pedal-looped stadium-show sets, he often thanks Tunstall for the inspiration. But if she’s eluded you so far, Tunstall’s latest album WAX is a perfect entry point – an album full of feverish rock grit produced by Franz Ferdinand’s Nick McCarthy, imbued with a fierce stomp from from start to finish.

Its standout “The River” is a visceral reminder of Tunstall’s uncanny gift for crafting pop melodies. With its effortless start-stop chorus, “The River” sounds a little like the lost twin of her other early hit “Suddenly I See” (the one from The Devil Wears Prada) and there’s a logical explanation for that: she wrote it around that time, but shelved it for about 10 years when the lyrics weren’t flowing. It’s a good thing she waited. Because on the other side of fame and divorce, Tunstall’s vindication just dazzles in a way it couldn’t have before. When she sings about the inscrutability of her lover, of failing to salvage a connection – “I listen, and I hear you speak/ Am I missing something?” – it’s almost hard not to hear Springsteen’s “Brilliant Disguise” somewhere in the ether, echoing back.


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