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Reviews

Risa Hall Risa Hall
Album: Love Is Telepathic
Label: Self Released
Tracks: 9
Website: http://www.risahall.com

Every singer-songwriter has their own history and background story, but usually it's a list of influences, when they started playing and their musical story so far, all backed up with a few nice quotes if they have them. Things are slightly different here however and a whistle stop tour through Risa's website biography tells us she is the great-niece of Estee Lauder, friend of the New York Dolls, born in New York City and attended Forest School High which was the same school as Simon & Garfunkel and the Ramones, who happened to be friends of her and her Brother. On coming to England, Risa worked as an actor and musician in London before moving up to Manchester. After appearing as Frenchy in the Broadway Cast of Grease, touring as Mae in Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, working as a voice over artist and performing in radio plays (Radio 4, Red Dwarf, Emmerdale and Stuart Little 2) Risa was inspired by the likes of KT Tunstall and Nerina Pallot to get out her guitar again and start writing songs.

Of course, the interesting thing for the listener is how all these disparate experiences and influences will reveal themselves musically. So, fast-forward a few years and Risa has well received EP's and a CD under her belt as well as numerous live performances and we are now on to her latest release, the 9 track 'Love Is Telepathic'.

All 9 songs on the album are originals, 8 completely Risa and 1 co write. The album was recorded at the studio nestling in the heart of The Grand Venue in Clitheroe, just a few miles North West of Manchester and along with Risa on vocals, features a talented array of musicians on an equally vast array of instruments, unfortunately too numerous to mention individually.

For starters 'You Became My Eyes' is a strong opener, bouncy guitars, drums, bass and fiddle from the off, matched by an equally strong rock mode vocal from Risa. However, in what is to become the first of many twists and turns throughout the album, the song does not settle here but almost enters different thematic sequences, a syncopated part then the spacey bit, in a restless 3 minutes 8 seconds.

'Soundtrack To My Life' immediately rings the changes being a simpler, more acoustic based number that boasts a particularly sweet melody and put me in mind of a classic 'Bacharach and David' type number.

'Inconsistently Consistent' swiftly breaks any reverie, all electric guitar riffs, sharp drums and Risa conjuring up her inner Hazel O'Connor, spitting out the vocal.

'Air Of Availability' starts a three track run of songs that are at the heart of the album for me in terms of performances, arrangements and vocal takes. It comes in on picked acoustic before a breathy flute part heralds the arrival of Risa's vocal, sounding strong, pure, straightforward and at its most authentic, in an effortless range which shows off all her strengths. The song itself pushes and pulls beautifully and for some reason sounded like something that could sit quite happily in the sound track of 'The Wicker Man' - perhaps in one of those scenes where Edward Woodward is wandering around the Scottish village looking increasingly perplexed!

'Sixth Sense' kicks off in dreamy, wistful fashion before gathering pace with some beautifully crisp drumming whilst 'Easy Come, Easy Go' follows in similarly fine vein.

Although the acoustics are still to the fore, 'Kids On Victoria Avenue' is back to a slightly rockier vibe and boasts a great, hooky chorus whereas 'New York Nights' has a more cinematic feel and checking out the promotional video on Risa's website prompts obvious 'Fame' references.

Last track 'Ethereal Waters' is an atmospheric closer and as meditative as the title suggests, all flute, strummed guitar and sweetly yearning vocal. In yet another musical bookmark, the late, great Ritchie Haven springs to mind.

In listening to this album over the past week or two I have been struck by the amount of musical associations it has triggered, only a few of which I have mentioned in this review. None of these has been to specific songs but all to a sense of time and place, a mood, an artist, film or culture, and there lays Risa's strength as a writer, arranger and singer. At times, a justifiable criticism might be that some songs are a little too diverse when heard in the context of a whole album, but far better to have too much than too little and the musical heart of this album is still guitars, bass, drums and a great voice.

Smart, endlessly creative and sometimes challenging, 'Love Is Telepathic' is, at the end of the day, a rattling good listen!

Paul Jackson