Rosie Doonan – Moving On

Album Review | Silvertop Records | Review by Allan Wilkinson | Stars: 5/5

Rosie Doonan appears to be a somewhat unsettled figure at the moment; seeking out, with no perceivable comfort zone in her sights, the ideal setting for her own songs and her own distinctive voice.  Experimenting with styles is a risky business and Rosie goes at it with all guns blazing.  The excellent Mill Lane album of 2004 which she made with erstwhile partner Ben Murray, leaned more towards the roots that the Doonan name has always been associated with, that of good traditional material seamlessly mixed with originals and thoughtful covers.  “Moving On” showcases Rosie’s song writing credentials much more clearly and defines her as an artist in her own right.  With eleven self-penned songs of startling quality, she finds that she has indeed moved on.  Revisiting “Need You Around” originally on the Mill Lane album, Rosie manages to update the arrangement in order to feature a brass section that includes a fine mariachi style trumpet solo, courtesy of Tony ‘Trumpet’ Swain.  It was an inspired decision to include brass on this album, which clearly compliments Rosie’s songs and her tasteful arrangements.  To kick the album off with an older song is perhaps Rosie’s way of saying ‘that was then, this is now’ and I’m fine with it if you are.  Whereas “Time”, a song of astonishing beauty that conjures up the essence of mid-period Carole King, demonstrates the course Rosie has been taking since going solo, the title track “Moving On” takes an unexpected turn, and moves into another territory altogether.  We no longer associate this with Rosie’s established folk roots or indeed early-Seventies Tapestry-esque bed-sit pop, but more like the Material Girl herself.  For those of us who would show no compunction to dancing to Ray of Light, stay on the dance floor, we now have something home grown to let our hair down to.  As the voice announces “let’s go for it”, the band steadily builds in layers to a groove that challenges anyone who feels uninspired to get up out of their seat.  Just as we set our feet to dancing another chorus, Rosie whispers her own cathartic confessional in what could possibly be recognised as “Moving On – Part Two”.  “Hold On” is heartbreakingly personal stuff, which puts the brakes on the euphoria of getting on with life and asks us to reflect upon things, just for a moment.  “We don’t have to talk, we have to move on, we can’t stay here too long, I’m too weak to hang on”.  Such is the fluidity of the recurring theme of moving onward towards pastures new, which dominates this album, that Rosie convinces even the most stagnant amongst us, that standing still is utterly pointless.  “The Journey” once again shows a yearning to leave the cocoon, to escape, to once again move on.  There are lighter moments on this album which contain great sing-along dance-along opportunities.  “The Girl I Used to be” is instantly accessible and provides a glimpse into Rosie’s playfulness.  Multi tracked harmony vocals and flirtatious harmonica, courtesy of Bob Thomas, help this mandolin-driven song take precedence in one’s internal Ipod.  It’s the sort of song you can’t shift out of your head, even if you wanted to.  Likewise in “Little Boat” Rosie demonstrates her own disdain for the mad politics that reduced her neck of the woods to a ghost town during Thatcherism by cleverly hiding those messages within the confines of a whimsical pop song.  This is the best way of getting your point across without appearing too overtly political.  Incidentally, the ‘lazy bones’ theme within this song was originally intended for the title of this album during earlier stages of preparation, and I can see why; it has single written all over it.  Love songs have a way of muscling in on most singer songwriter repertoires and in the wrong hands they can come over twee and pointless.  Rosie manages to keep the listeners’ attention by entwining lyrical flights of fancy with engaging melodies to great effect.  “Only One” and “This Love” have a simplistic approach to song writing, utilising familiar rhythms but at the same time sounding refreshingly new.  Rosie, along with co-Producer Joss Clapp, have nailed the right sound for these songs on Moving On, keeping Rosie’s inimitable voice at the top of the mix and, it must be said, at the top of her game.