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Bella Gaffney Bella Gaffney
Album: Heaven Knows
Label: Folkstock
Tracks: 11
Website: http://www.bellagaffney.co.uk

The Danny Kyle award winner from last year's Celtic Connections, Yorkshire's Bella Gaffney's third album is a mostly self-penned collection and one on which she's pushed the boat out in terms of instrumentation and arrangement to create a fuller sound, taking in, though not necessarily on all tracks, piano. mandolin, keys, and fiddle as well as the usual guitar, bass and drums. Produced by Lauren Deakin Davies, who also contributes, bass, keys and percussion, it opens with 'the simple guitar-accompanied love song title track on which she employs tapping percussion, double tracked to harmonise with herself. 'The Devil in Me', a melodically circling song she describes as being about her flaws, introduces bass and brushed drums before moving on the strummed folk ballad love song 'I Am The Tide', Nick Hall providing guitar and backing vocals with Gaffney colouring with concertina.

Concertina's there again on 'Grandma's House', augmented by fiddle on a song inspired by a radio programme about refugees arriving in Greece and Lampedusa and the stories of a woman who took in a family of three generations (who called her Grandma) and a carpenter who saved many from drowning and made wooden crosses from sunken boats to mark those that died. Death also informs 'Go Well, Stay Well', a traditional sounding song commemorating a friend, an ant-war protestor, who passed earlier this year, suitably sparse and featuring some fluttering mandolin.

Exodus is her political track, a jazzy swing number on which, accompanied by James Gaffney on piano, she sings about her view of the country's political shambles, specifically, as the title would suggest, Brexit.

Written as encouragement to a friend in the wake of a broken relationship, with another mandolin appearance, 'First Light of Dawn' is an upbeat strummer with a cascading melody line while 'After the Fall' is a gently dappled and plucked tune, Chris Elliot joining on fiddle as the tempo shifts for its soaring chorus sections.

The two covers here hark to her influences, the first being a nod to one of her guitarist heroes, the late John Martyn with a bluesy, breathy slouch through 'Cocaine' (not to be confused with the one written by JJ Cale) and the other digging into the traditional grab bag for a bluesy, stripped to the bone sultry-sung take on 'Gallows Pole'. And it's the blues with which she closes the album, 'Blues Train' an instrumental which she says is there as a chance to show off her guitar skills. And rightly so. It's early days yet and she probably still needs to season a while, but its impossible not to hear the future potential at work here.

Mike Davies