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Rachel RiesRachel Ries
Album: Cardinal (The Rouen EP)
Label: Sodak
Tracks: 4

Hailing from the prairies of middle America, US musician and songwriter Rachel Ries gifts us this handcrafted 4 track EP, written in an apartment above an ancient chapel in the medieval city of Rouen, France. And it's a short collection of songs that both cleverly reflect her artistic temperament at the time, alongside capturing the aura of her surroundings and placing the two cleverly into context with each other.

With Ries you get a story. You get poetry. You get disarming honesty. You don't always get a tuneful melody. You won't be singing along with any of these songs. But here that is not really the point. This is Ries, in the moment, not knowing what she's looking for, yet finding it through the form of song. It's almost confessional in it's candour and cleansing through it's evolution.

"So when your voice is clear, you must heed it", Ries opines in opener "Winding Road", which takes on a cold cathedral-like atmosphere with stark acoustic picking alongside Ries's fragile, almost broken vocal. Within that seeming fragility though is a core of steel, "Come what may…you must be brave…and that is all", which seeps through the whisper skin of the song, taking on a Cohen-esque ambience, circa "Bird On A Wire" period.

This songwriter is very adept at painting a vivid and occasionally shocking picture through her clev-er writing. "Homing" is very much a product of state-of-mind art, and economical use ofinstrumen-tation in order not to distract from the bitter lyric. "Good Enough" follows in a similar vein, Ries this time railing rightly against the corporate shiny suit brigade. And it's not until EP closer "Anchor" that we finally see the clouds lifting to present a brighter alternative - "So lift your anger and set out to sea. Join your family in the tumult and the peace".

It's clear from the outset that this EP is a labour of love. Ries has something to say and she is determined to say it in the best way she can. There's nothing smart-ass about the production, nothing in the way of shiny happy people. Just an honest and talented songwriter working her way through some issues and taking us along for the ride at the same time.

Ken Brown