Album Review | Little Sailor | Review by Marc Higgins
With Elaine’s assured and sophisticated singing and fine players like Findlay Napier, Patsy Reid and Euan Burton this is a solid and quality debut album. “Next Friday Night” is a smooth opener, layered voices with a touch of Katie Melua class over understated strings and a gently rippling piano. “Trouble” has a little Rockabilly swagger and pout. Elaine raises the heat with a more Imelda May vocal that smolders over gritty guitar and Ian Sloan’s pedal steel. What sets Elaine apart is that she can be big voiced and bluesy or understated as the line dictates within the same song. “Only Love Can Break Your Heart” is a sweet piano ballad with clear and captivating annunciation from Elaine. “This” is a surprisingly contemporary piece with a electronic sounding bass note and some sizzling electric guitar. Think Duffy and that compelling mix of classic soul and modern. Lennon rides the swirl of sound recalling a confident Kate Bush.
“Alone Here With Me” is a Country slow dance that builds slowly with a captivating vocal over strummed smooth guitars and sophisticated piano. “She’s Got You” is a contemporary sounding take of the old country break up song, imagine Kate Bush again doing Patsy Cline. Some of the smoothness is stripped away on this emotional piano ballad. “Little Bird Little Sailor” is another surprise arrangement wise with a modern jazz Postmodern Jukebox feel to the bass and piano intro. Elaine delivers another confident swaggering vocal over a lively surprising arrangement, again we have vintage and modern overlaid. “In Songs We Live On” carries that old and new mix on with Lennon in wartime crooner or Andrews Sisters mode over a scratchy 78 piano. “You And Me” develops those classic easy listening layers of vocals like a cloud of loveliness over Elaine’s piano, building a definite atmosphere. Carrying on from “She’s Got You”, “’Fear” is a break up song, but there is a sinister edge. Elaine’s voice is confident, defiant rather than just bruised as she turns on her own emotions. Fans of Agnes Obel’s voice and piano atmospheric slightly Gothic music will connect with this track and its emotional intensity. “By Your Side” takes the simple elements of voice, piano and violin and folds them in on themselves, building pressure from these three elements to create beauty.
This is a sophisticated assured debut from a singer who delivers brooding classic beauty. Elaine Lennon manages to keep it interesting by blending in classic smooth country, pop soul, crooners jazz and still managing to weave together those elements into something that hangs together as a wonderful whole.
Choice Track: Next Friday Night (NSV 496)