Reviews

Lauren HousleyLauren Housley
Album: Sweet Surrender
Label: Big Bad
Tracks: 10
Website: http://www.laurenhousley.co.uk

Housley's incredible vocals could easily hold their own in the arena of contemporary chart toppers. It's difficult to make a comparison with other acts as she demonstrates the finest features of so many artists whilst remaining unmistakably unique. Housley's voice combines gutsy, raw power with soulful dexterity and she contrasts this beautifully with great control and a fragile quality in more gentle songs. The vocal performance on 'Sweet Surrender' is immediately engaging and draws the listener through a collection of moods and musical flavours, sampling Blues, Americana and Country, and delivering all of these with a pop sensibility.

It took a few listens before I was finally able to tear my attention away from the lush vocals and sift through the instrumentation underpinning these great songs. Housley notes that the arrangements here are led first by the lyrics. As a result the songs never feel artificially moulded to fit the genre. Instead, the country influence rests naturally around the structure of these heartfelt words. Dibb, who has shared a long musical partnership with Housley, demonstrates his immense versatility as a musician. Across the album he follows the songs through the different colours and genres on a number of instruments. Mournful slide guitar accompanies like a second voice against the stunning backdrop of the piano. This expands to the infectious and uplifting sound of brass, strings, and a great rhythm section.

The song 'Ghost Town Blues' is undeniably epic and the perfect showcase for such a great singer. However, the track that resonated with me most is the far more intimate, 'When Autumn Came'. The performance is understated but full of very real emotion. The simple setting, with the haunting wail of the guitar underpinned by wonderful harmony on the piano, evokes a feeling of vulnerability. The song doesn't hide behind the unnecessary beauty of syrupy string writing and its stark honesty adds immeasurably to its charm.

It would be no great stretch to imagine hearing this album in the top 40 but I would love the chance to sample Housley in live performance in a more intimate setting.

Lee Cuff

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