wears the trousers magazine

florence rawlings: a fool in love (2010)
January 1, 2010, 9:23 pm
Filed under: album, review | Tags: , ,

Florence Rawlings
A Fool In Love ••½

Love can be a battlefield. Of that there is little doubt. As, too, can the overcrowded field of bluesy, ’60s Motown-influenced young female artists with unexpectedly voluminous voices. Stepping into the fray with her self-declared status as a lover not a fighter is 20 year old Florence Rawlings. Taken under the wing of Mike Batt, (who the reviewer’s handbook states can only be referred to if mention is made of his early ’70s work with The Wombles), Rawlings is tipped to follow in the footsteps of her impresario’s fellow young charge, Katie Melua. With a support slot with Tom Jones and Radio 2 airplay already under her belt, 2010 could be a very good year for this latest little big voice.

Debut album A Fool In Love, released digitally in September 2009, mixes covers with original numbers and places Rawlings firmly somewhere on the spectrum between Norah Jones and Duffy. The sluggish blues lick of ‘I Wouldn’t Treat A Dog’ puts the album on an less than promising backfoot from the outset, but things soon pick up with the singalong heroics and brass fanfare of ‘The Only Woman In The World’. A quirky harmonica break and a controlled but impassioned vocal give this original composition a classic-done-anew feel. It’s competent, cheery and classically distracting, but it never really sets your heart racing. And the same can be applied to much of what follows. A cover of Allen Touissant’s ‘Riverboat’ seems oddly distant, the guitar break half-hearted, everything safe when you long for a little less caution. Rawlings’ powerful set of lungs are imbued with unnerving maturity, but to merely fade them out on such promising material suggests a certain lack of production inspiration. Thankfully the ballsy blues of ‘Jump On The Wagon’ serves her better as a grooving guitar, complementary horns and rumbling drums inspire a strutting vocal delivery.

The title track is a cover of Ike & Tina Turner’s 1960 debut, a bold choice perhaps and one that only lends itself to unfavourable comparisons. In the end, it’s a tight, passable cover, but feels overly mannered with more than a whiff of pastiche. Hit follows miss, with ‘Take Me In Your Arms’ full of ‘Son Of A Preacher Man’ echoes of Aretha and a copybook Motown production. The stylistically incongruent ‘A Dollar Of My Pain’, written by guitarist Chris Spedding, falls flat, with too much mid-Atlantic posturing and overdone guitar licks glorifying a mess of try-hard overproduction that makes you long for its trumpeted end. A much needed moment of lighter’s aloft mellow reflection brings the album to a close as ‘Love Can Be A Battlefield’ seeks to be an anthem for the lovelorn and lonely, and nearly achieves it. The strong still fall in the face of the merciless heart, but coming from someone so young it sounds like false sentiment. Sincere balladry can sound awfully kitsch if you don’t feel the person delivering the message has actually paid their romantic dues; this treads a fine line.

While Rawlings cannot be criticised for her age, or indeed her fairly flawless exhibition of her vocal talents, there is little here that really gets the blood pumping. A big voice, a clever producer and working knowledge of the Motown back catalogue are not enough in themselves to delineate a competent vocalist from a very crowded pack. The tour with Tom Jones is perhaps a better pointer to where Mike Batt thinks Florence Rawlings belongs. It’s passable white soul that slips somewhere between the worlds of pop and cabaret. Yet, there is a voice and tender talent there. It may need careful nurturing for a while, but there will have to come a time when Florence Rawlings makes an original reckoning of what she is about. Until then, this remains a watch this space kind of moment.

Martyn Clayton
UK release date: 18/01/10; www.myspace.com/florencerawlings

‘Hard To Get’


Leave a Comment so far
Leave a comment

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: