When you put Ina Forsman into your CD player or she appears on your playlist, there are two things that are for certain. The first is that the voice itself will be a soulful force of nature, one which takes a familiar but accomplished foray into Blues and Soul from yesterday with you and reminds you very much of the talents of that time. The second thing is that there is a determination and a great deal of heart that you will be listening to which will encourage you no end, she has already had the accolade of representing Finland at the European Blues Challenge.
In her debut album (released 26th February 2016), Ina goes headfirst into Blues and Soul, and from the get-go it is apparent that there are a few reverential nods to some of her favourite artists such as Aretha Franklin and Sam Cooke. She even bravely takes on Nina Simone's "I want a little sugar in my bowl" and does a really good job. She lists her earliest influence in her youth as Christina Aguilera. This comes across most in an assured,confident but not cocky attitude to the songs within though it is much more likely though that comparisons will be made to the late Amy Winehouse in part due to similarities in her singing voice, genre, and the tying of her music to her relationship situation (in particularity "Pretty Messed Up"). With her experiences in Austin, Texas recording the album with her other members Russell Jackson (bass), Laura Chavez and Derek O'Brien (guitar), brass from the Texas Horns and well known harpist Helge Tallqvist through Ruf Records, she tackles Blues and Soul from yesteryear and it works. The lyrics and subject of relationships could apply equally to back then as well as now, but it comes now at a time as a musical antidote to the feeling of bass-heavy, or many types of diluted RnB tracks that are in the mainstream. It is pretty undeniable that Ina is living and breathing the blues train, and on the plus side it feels pretty authentic, her voice is expressive and is a pretty perfect fit for the genre. Which brings me to some of the tracks.
"Now you want me back" (track seven) has some excellently sharp guitars, a great harmony and a little gospel influence. It's pace is steady and while it brings Ina's voice to the fore it has the added bonus of being well-crafted song with a great diversity of instruments that gives it a an involved and committed sound, and this is before even saxophone solo makes it's appearance later on. Her voice holds in all the right places as she rebuffs the person who is wanting her back, and lifts the song up with a powerful soul centre.
"Before you go home" (track nine) is another favourite on the album, The soul-infused piano is really good here it takes you away to white ballrooms and American proms, and with the saxophone it gives a true sense of being in another time and persisting like the Penguin's "Earth Angel". It is my favourite album, the instruments all come together and Ina's voice has the showmanship you can picture from a live performance, it cuts an enviable atmosphere and carries. It is my favourite track on the album, it seems to get everything right.
Other notable tracks on the album is the engaging and bombastic start to the disc with "Pretty Messed up" complete with woodwind interlude and an approach which is not doing things by half measure. "Farewell" is another good one with a backing which takes that shared space along with the best reggae, song, and of course the already mentioned the more than serviceable cover of Nina Simone's, "I want a little sugar in my bowl" which is brave and accomplished. It is this attitude to her work, a good level of production and her well-versed and obvious love for the classics that make her a very welcome addition to the music collection.
Soul and blues fans will take her into their arms like a daughter they are proud of, and her attitude and image indicate an artist who is putting the hours in, carrying the classic music torch, and loving every moment of it. There is something here for the new and young too though, her songs have a romance and swing that is hard to capture but she manages to bring blues to the modern audience without it being a poor man's imitation or pastiche of what has come before. It comes across as a well-researched, clean album and sharp album with a whole bunch of soul.
|Jim Causley: Forgotten Kingdom||Hamish Napier: The River|
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