wears the trousers magazine

sounding off: january 2010 (iv)

In this month’s roundup, we’ll be looking at a bunch of stragglers from last year that we ran out of time to publish before Christmas, plus a few early 2010 releases in brief.

* * *

The American Dream •••
Leon Russell Records

Few may have heard of singer Sugaree but they are very likely to have heard of her father, legendary singer-songwriter Leon Russell, on whose label Sugaree’s debut has been released. Though that fact smacks of nepotistic opportunism, saying so outright would only be permissible if the album was a dud. The fact is The American Dream is something of a pop gem, a contemporary album that is a million miles from the country-blues music of her father. A short album, at just over thirty minutes, it mixes different genres – rock, pop and R&B – with an electro-dance vibe that pulls all its disparate references into a coherent, if sometimes samey, sound.

The album starts off very strongly with the title track’s bombastic opening synth-strings, guitars and bass, above which Sugaree takes time to admonish American consumerism. The exotic sonic palette of ‘Beautiful’ underpins strong melodies and vocals, her voice immediately recalling to mind Black Eyed Peas’ Fergie, and has a chorus hook that could pay commercial dividends given the right break. Elsewhere, ‘Is This War (A Love Song)’ is all cabaret and tribal beats, ‘Lying Down’ is filled with stadium drums and caterwauling vocals that could have been pulled from a Shakira album, while ‘One More Time’, ‘Personal Stranger’ and ‘Simple Solution’ are well-written contemporary pop songs. The album loses steam towards its close, but does enough in its short timespan to warrant repeated listens.

P. Viktor
UK release date: 11/01/10; www.myspace.com/sugareenoel

Krystle Warren & The Faculty
Circles ••••

Despite an amiably nondescript musical lineage, Krystle Warren has a voice and style that makes it seem impossible that she could have become anything other than an artist. As it is, the Kansas City native points to an ABC special on The Beatles, seen aged 13, as the true beginnings of her musical career. While she credits Rubber Soul and Revolver as being responsible for her mastery of the guitar, her musical tastes go way beyond the Fabs, from Rufus Wainwright and Willie Nelson to Nina Simone and an early love of grunge. It’s this diverse catalogue that has nurtured Warren to become an adventurous and poetic songwriter who has forged her own gloriously enjoyable style. Her rousing TV debut on ‘Later…with Jools Holland’ resulted in worthy hype, and comes just in time for her debut album, Circles. Vocally, Warren is an absolute pleasure, evoking Joan Armatrading’s rich timbre, her mellow tone the perfect conduit for the emotive lyricism that sweeps across this album. Sounding very much like an old soul enjoying new adventures, Warren is both candid and graceful, melting folk with funk and country with blues, maintaining a spirit of smouldering soul all the way through. Beautiful stuff.

Charlotte Richardson Andrews
UK release date: 08/02/10; www.myspace.com/krystlewarren

Whalebone Polly
Taproot & Sill EP •••••

Whalebone Polly consists of two successful singer-songwriters: Kate Stables, who performs under the pseudonym This Is The Kit, and Rachael Dadd, who’s flirted with the limelight as a solo artist and as half of Bristol-based duo The Hand. Both women originate from Winchester and, as Taproot & Sill proves, both are to folk music as salt is to brine: essential. Opening track ‘The Turnip Turned’ is a superior ballad, a subdued tribute to life and the world spinning on. Dadd takes lead vocals over a backdrop of fingerpicked banjo, astral guitar and understated support from Stables, her thoughtful, poetic imagery and a subtle horn solo adding up to an early standout. ‘Good Good Light’ picks up from where the song leaves off, but adds an uplifting atmosphere and lends the limelight to Stables. ‘Sometimes The Sea’ may dip in spirit but its carnival-at-dusk attitude attests to the duo’s diversity, while closing track ‘Window’ resolves that Whalebone Polly are the closest human imitation to the sound of a nightingale.

As folk music becomes more popular, it’s getting harder to source original and uncompensated material. Whalebone Polly are not only true to their ears, they’re true to the ground; Taproot & Sill is folk in its purest form, with no sly electricity and no chance of the dreaded term antifolk being applied. It’s a relief to find something this accomplished and beautiful mooring the turbulent shores of the South West.

Tiffany Daniels
UK release date: 15/09/09; www.myspace.com/whalebonepolly


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