Surrey-based Anne Sumner will be a new name to most readers, that's for sure. But not for long, I suspect. For, given that she only started performing her songs live in 2015, this live-in-the-studio album, with each track recorded in a single take, is a remarkably assured piece of work as both a set of persuasive individual songs and a genuine and directly felt artistic statement. This bare-bones voice-and-guitar setting evidently gave Anne the added impetus of exposure (in both senses of the word) and the confidence to air her thoughts in song in full view of an audience.
For all that she comes from a musical family, and has been writing songs for a number of years while being classically trained, it was only when she took up guitar over the past five years or so that her talent for expressing her thoughts in song began to surface in earnest. All things considered, Anne appreciates the difference between songwriting and poetical composition, and views the songwriting process as "the need to express something elusive and ephemeral", writing from within the emotion/s that she needs to express. These are invariably generated by her responses to the people she spends time with and who impact on her life in a major way, and the result, allied to a natural approach to melodic construction, is captivating. The pleading tenderness of Anywhere With You is one of Anne's most immediately appealing creations, and forms a good entry point into her world, its light and supple guitar patterns perfectly complementing and supporting Anne's voice with its heart-rending combination of expressive confidence and tremulous vulnerability. River, Be With You, Tide Will Turn and Everything Forever possess a quality of delicate strength that's hard to resist, but on closer acquaintance several other tracks also stand out for their honesty and melodic charm. Anne herself regards this collection of songs as a memento of the time in her life when she was writing directly from how she felt - and yet she's not wallowing in self-pity or introspective gloom, for her capacity for self-examination is keen and more focused. The 15 songs on this album may sound straightforwardly accessible, but they demand closer listening in order to apprehend the aforementioned elusiveness. It's not easy to provide a reference point among Anne's fellow-songwriters - there may sometimes be hints of Joni Mitchell, but even that subliminal observation might be thought a little off-beam, even fanciful, in the context of Anne's personal brand of innate sensitivity and emotional authenticity. Vocally, her warm style may evoke shades of Joan Armatrading, but again that's not the whole story by any means.
There's no question that These Hours is a fine achievement, but nevertheless it's one that may make you wait for awhile to reveal its full quality; you really do need to pick the moment, then savour it.
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