Risa Hall is not one to let the grass grow under her feet and the EP 'Gold Dust' is a prompt follow up to her very well received 2018 album, 'Love Is Telepathic'. Whilst that record was characterised by an almost dizzying range of sounds, styles and genres,'Gold Dust' is slightly more linear in approach and allows Risa to showcase her more Americana-Country pop type leanings. However, given that modern Country ranges from Taylor Swift, to Willie Nelson, to Chris Stapleton and all stops in-between, Risa's creativity isn't going to be hampered too much!
To ring the changes further, over the past year or so Risa has been doing a lot of co-writing and of the five tracks here, there are three collaborations and two Risa originals. 'Gold Dust' and 'A Little Hope' were written with fellow BBC New Talent finalist James Rea and 'Alone Without You Now' with Wayne McDonald, who also fronts Manchester based Alt-Country band 'Picnic Area'.
Along with Risa on vocals, there is Daniel. J. Logan on drums and percussion, Jim Duff, Bass, Kevin Farrell, Guitars, Victoria Martin, Flute, Elizabeth Beahan, Violin, Riza Hussaini, Cello and Bonny Dinsdale and Jessica Shaw, backing vocals. Lastly, the EP was recorded Studio-Studio in Rochdale by the previously mentioned Daniel. J. Logan and mixed and mastered at Orchard Studios.
EP opener 'Gold Dust' is full on bar room country rock and barges in on a vibrant, overdriven guitar riff and drums, with Risa's vocal square in the mix pushing things through until the hookiest of choruses establishes the songs status as an immediate ear-worm.
'A Little Hope' is a slightly slower, acoustic guitar driven piece that nonetheless boasts real swing and an infectious optimism with lots of clever little syncopations and instrumentation as the song is delivered, done and dusted in a sparkling two and a half minutes.
'Missing You' is a Risa original, apparently written some time ago, and speaks on the universal themes of missing loved ones or friends. The song enters on harmonics and courtly guitar strum with a melodic flute line that weaves in and lends the song a fetching, almost 60's Woodstock era vibe. I also really liked Risa's vocal on this one, particularly in the way her voice lifts out of the verse into the chorus.
'Alone Without You Know' is another strong band song with electric guitar, drums and bass to the fore, and more flute that again gives a timeless feel conjuring up images of Tim Buckley, Traffic, San Francisco and the like.
EP closer 'Forever Mine' was written by Risa following the death of her Mother in late 2018 and although obviously deeply personal, the song also touches on generic themes of loss and longing. As befits such subject matter, it is sensitively arranged and delivered and from about three minutes thirty seconds in to the fade out there is a beautiful instrumental, almost orchestrated passage that really is very evocative.
On all fronts 'Gold Dust' is a success, the co-writing appears to bring a little more sharpness but not at the expense of Risa's creativity, and the loose setting to the Americana-Country genre is a perfectly natural fit.
Often EP's are used to herald a new sound, direction or theme and if this is the indicator of things to come from a full length album, then the signs are very promising indeed.
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