Angry Baby

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This week I’m bringing you more new music, again from Angry Baby Music.  Kate Dimbleby’s sixth album is called Songbirds and despite being the sixth, is the first she truly considers to have her own voice.  Here’s what Angry Baby had to say about it:

Songbirds is the product of a life explored. From London to Vancouver Island, from riverside benches to forests and hilltops and from break-up to intimacy to self-revelation, Kate’s journeys spill out into lyrics that entice and surprise. Backed by her own voice, looped and layered into technical masterpieces, Kate’s work pretends to be simple, but isn’t. Accessing Americana, blues, jazz, spiritual and folk, Kate redefines her influences through courage sprinkled with genius. Her approach to music has a postmodern twist, as she leaves “room for people to interact by stepping into the space where the instruments would normally be”. The result is an album deserving of the label “groundbreaking”, brought to life via her partnership with producer Lauren Deakin Davies and label boss Helen Meissner.

Ever felt the need to find yourself? Limbo locates the moment where change is inevitable, yet slow to arrive. This is an intensely personal reflection which, for Kate, was triggered by her first real heartbreak. She explains “I sat on a bench by the river in Hammersmith thinking this is a really horrible feeling – this kind of emptiness…I need to move it by singing about it”. Out of that moment of despair came Kate’s first song.

From heartbreak comes joy, so track two reminds us that Love Can Be Easy. Born in a moment of simple pleasure with her daughter, which caused Kate to ponder “why do we never sing about the quiet moments?”, we’re transported to the spaces in life where nothing is happening but contentment. If only we could bottle it, but, as the song says “when we see it clearly, then we’re no longer there”.

Many songs have tried to capture the spirit of happiness, none less than Bobby McFerrin’s 1988 Don’t Worry, Be Happy. Listening to the playful expression in Kate’s Happy, it’s no surprise to find that she had previously worked with the man himself. Kate takes joy to a whole new dimension. Spontaneous and childlike, this is a track to put a smile on your face. Listen at least once a day for maximum benefit.

 

Describing At Our Best as a “silly marching hymn”, Kate is in danger of undermining her own genius. Blending country/gospel/spiritual vibes with on-point harmonies, this is 1 minute 6 seconds of anthemic perfection. Yes, we could march along, but we’d best be marching for something worthwhile. Let’s hope this little gem finds its cause.
Revealing a softly nurturing side to Kate’s songwriting, Whatever is the story of unconditional support that everyone needs in their life…“When this world seems overcrowded but friendship feels too hard to find…I’ll never be too far behind”. Supported by a jazz of doo-wop, and ending with a snippet of studio chat and a giggle, this track has personality by the bucketload. Love this live performance:

Many can sing the blues, but not many can write a strong, traditional blues refrain. In These Things, They Will Come, Kate reveals her blues credentials. The track, Kate confesses, runs very deep for her, founded in her personal experience of physical pain and psychological displacement. Reminiscent of Sam Cooke’s civil rights anthem A Change Is Gonna Come, Kate wrote it as a personal reassurance that there’s a world of support to be found. But with the end strangely unresolved, listeners are left suspended in a space for their own interpretation.

In an era of instant gratification, the patience required of intimacy can be hard to achieve. Walk Away acknowledges the choice to leave while celebrating the prize to be won if we stay. With effortless vocal control and chorally-precise harmonies, Kate transports us to a hilltop where the song came to her “all in one go, pretty much as recorded”. Sometimes these things are a gift.

Closing the album, Song For A Hill is a quirky, carnivalesque confection, combining captured sound with electronica. Calling to mind automata and strains of Hushabye Mountain, Kate creates a delicious waltz through traditional toyboxes, distant streets and stormy days. A tiny soundscape to hold in your hand and enjoy.
Disruptive and contemporary, Songbirds introduces interpretation that shakes off familiarity and define the edge of a new genre. Kate’s determination to find her own voice – which can’t be easy, given the heritage that attaches to her name – has found fertile ground in the all-female, all-nurturing team that has assembled around her.

What a great review from Angry Baby – click here to get your FREE track from Songbirds.

Songbirds is available here:

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Sometimes you wait a while to review a really good Christmas album and sometimes two come along together.  A couple of weeks ago I told you about Gareth Malone’s Great British Christmas album and now I’d like to share Angry Baby’s review of Prayer to a Snowflake from Mary-Jess.

At this time of year, it’s easy to write off music as tacky or overly-sentimental, especially when the shops are blasting out Slade and Chris de Burgh as though there’s been nothing new since the 70s. Thankfully, in Prayer To A Snowflake, UK-based classical-crossover artist Mary-Jess has released an album that cuts through the cynicism and provides a perfect selection of seasonal songs. Whether you’re looking for something to play when the in-laws come round for turkey, or a playlist for romantic evenings in front of the fire when all the crazy-madness is over, this could be the top choice for the holidays.

 

Mary-Jess catapulted to international attention when she won a singing competition live on Chinese TV, in front of 70 million people. Her popularity in China continues, which is why her website blends text in English and Mandarin. Back at home, she is known to TV viewers as the voice of the theme to Downton Abbey. That’s quite a CV, but behind it all is a crystal-clear voice, perfect phrasing and deliciously emotional delivery. Add to that the writing skills and musicianship to create seasonal songs which sit comfortably alongside traditional standards on this album, and there can be no doubt that Mary-Jess’s success is well earned and well deserved.

Opening with two traditional carols, Prayer To A Snowflake ticks the box as something to please the vicar. Silent Night may have been done a million times, but Mary-Jess tingles the spine with her precise soprano, produced with the acoustics of a vaulted chapel. Similarly stripped-back and simple, In The Bleak Midwinter warms the heart. Grab a cup of hot chocolate and gather the little ones around to create the holiday memories we all crave.

I Fell In Love With A Snowman provides a theme-song for falling in love this year. Softly reminiscent of fun in the snow, this track will have everyone wrapping up warm and pulling their significant other out to play like kids. Hold On To Me continues the romantic theme, joining Mary-Jess’s charmingly engaging vocals in musical-theatre-ballad style with Jaden Cornelious’s rich tenor.

Opening with acoustic guitar, In December reveals Mary-Jess’s country style. A consummate story-teller through her song, Mary-Jess paints vivid mind-pictures of winter people “…wearing crimson and evergreen” and pain “I see you in the dark, all bruised and broken”. The story-telling continues as When Summer Comes creates a soundscape of loneliness. Exploring the relatable experience of break-up at holiday time, “I’m finding it hard to sleep alone, Table for one all on my own” Mary-Jess reaches out to anyone facing the festive season newly-single.  If you want to add this to your collection, Angry Baby and Mary-Jess are giving a free download of this song as an extra special Christmas present – just click here to get your free music.

Inserted between these tracks, the story of Christmas is told through the eyes of the biblical Mary, from magnificence and submission in The Angel Gabriel, to fear and and confusion in the classical-pop ballad Breath of Heaven. Simple arrangements support Mary-Jess’s vocals – controlled and exquisitely expressive – every note perfectly placed.

Rhydian is one of the X-Factor’s success stories. Breaking the mould of the popular artist with his classical style when he appeared in 2007, he strides across the boundaries of pop, classical and musical theatre, maintaining the integrity of his own sound. Performing a duet with Rhydian is likely to expose the weakness in any partner, so it’s a testament to Mary-Jess’s technique and talent that their voices blend effortlessly throughout The Sound Of Christmas . This is no trick of a clever producer; each singer maintains a refreshingly natural range and pitch within the mix, providing beautifully blended harmonies that beg to be heard in live performance.

Quirkily titled, closing track Prayer To A Snowflake brings something fresh to the seasonal catalogue. Easily the stand-out piece of a stand-out album, Mary-Jess’s juxtaposition of Chinese musicality and classical European vocals creates an addictively melodic offering. This deserves to become a seasonal standard.

Prayer to a Snowflake is available by clicking here.

Here on thoughtsofjustafan I like to bring you new music, indeed this is the second time this week that I’m bringing you new music, and I very often find new stuff from Flo at Angry Baby.  This week, I was stopped in my tracks by a hauntingly beautiful poem by Raphael Doyle, I Come From Ireland:

Autobiographical and sometimes brutal in it’s honesty, it draws the listener into the story of Doyle’s self confessed ‘messy’ life in and around the alt rock scene, encompassing pain, success, loss and love.

If you found yourself drawn in to this epic poem, then this is just a taste of what could be as Doyle is currently producing an album, titled Never Closer, together with his son Louis (Slides, The Spare Room).  Here is something a little more musical, We’ll All Get Together Again:

But, Raphael and Louis need help to complete this project.  Sadly, earlier this year Raphael was diagnosed with a terminal illness and is rapidly approaching the time when, for him, there will be no more music to make.  Faced with this news, Raphael decided that to push ahead with his passion project, which has turned out to be Never Closer.  Father and son are now racing against time to record, mix and master the album before Raphael’s 64th birthday on January 6th.   If you can help, please click here to pop over to Pledge Music and help them achieve their passion project in time.

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Following on from our first Summer Playlist, here are four more artists brought to you by Flo at Angry Baby and this time it’s all about the girls – don’t forget to download your free music from Angry Baby at the bottom of this post.*

  • Kelly Oliver, Bedlam

Being a fearless storyteller is a great starting point for any contemporary folk singer. Add to that the creativity to build stand-out instrumentation topped by a voice that is uniquely sweet and complex and you have all the ingredients you need for a breakthrough folk album.  That’s what I found in Kelly Oliver’s Bedlam, released on boutique indie label Folkstock Records on 6 March 2016. It’s no surprise that she is already a favourite with the UK’s Folk Radio station and legendary music presenter Whispering Bob Harris.

  • Kiirstin Marilyn, Out of Control

At first listening, her new EP, Ghosts could be just another electro-pop offering. The vocals are sweet and tuneful, the arrangements energetic and the production tight. But it’s way too demanding to be background music or something to dance along to. This is a collection of songs that tap you on the shoulder. Think you might drift away? check your texts? tweet? Not while this music is playing, you won’t. It wants all of you and it accepts nothing less than your full attention.  It’s the voice that does it. Kiirstin may deliver a sweet vocal, but there is an urgency to her delivery too. An ‘I’m-singing-this’because-it-matters’. A ‘listen-up’. A ‘get-with-it’. Her activism occupies her tone and campaigns through her phrasing. This is a songbird for social justice. [love the intro to the music video. Jane]

  • Lorna Dea, Stay the Same

Sometimes all you need is pop. For just those moments, meet Lorna Dea. Bubbly and up-beat, Lorna’s sound channels all-time favourites from across the decades – The Supremes, Bananarama, The Bangles, The Spice Girls, Little Mix – into a one-woman girl-band.

  • Rachael Sage – English Tea

Rachael Sage is a singer songwriter whose music I’ve loved the for some time now, so I was thrilled when she agreed to do an interview. Her music is incredible, but I’ll let you see how she describes it in the piece below:

I first really started developing my style when I was a ballet student. I would come home from ballet class in my pre-teens and I would sound out all of this beautiful classical music by ear, and then in my own way I would kind of mash it up and I eventually started composing my own music. The first building block for me musically was definitely classical music, so there’s a lot of melody and a lot of arpeggiation in the piano. Then of course I absorbed just about everything I heard, from Top 40 in high school, to later on a lot of more organic folk music and socially conscious music that I heard in college. So it was a mix of influences. I do get compared a lot to songwriters from the seventies, and I always take that as a compliment because I really try to tell stories in my music.

 

Thanks to Flo at Angry Baby for sharing her music with us – I really loved the intro to Kiirstin Marilyn’s music video.  Also Rachael Sage is an artist featured on thoughtsofjustafan last year – love her music.

Click on the links below to get your free downloads from Angry Baby and add to your Summer playlist

Kelly Oliver – Bedlam

Kiirstin Marilyn – Out of Control

Lorna Dea – Stay the Same

Rachael Sage – English Tea

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Even if Summer has yet to really arrive in the UK this year, we can dream about it and while we’re doing that, we need a Summer playlist which is where I come in.  This summer, I’m teaming up with Angry Baby to share our Summer playlist; not only that, Angry Baby is also giving away lots of lovely free music for you to download, so keep reading all the way to the bottom to get your free music links*.

Thanks to Flo at Angry Baby for sharing her blogs with me here:

  • In Hoodies, She Got Caught:

When I first heard She Got Caught, I instantly fell in love with it, in fact this is probably one of my favourites of all of the songs I have given away on Angry Baby. Everything about the song makes it something I’d want to listen to all the time, as different aspects work well in different moods. The melody is quite relaxing and calm, but there is a certain quality to it that is more than that, and it adds another level to the music entirely. I can’t quite put my finger on what it is, but you can listen for yourself and see what I mean!

  • Jay Woodward, Blue Sky Blue:

At first what stood out to me about Jay’s music was the relaxing melody, but when I listened to the song a few times I noticed the meaningful lyrics. Jay’s songs are based on his real life experiences of death, bereavement and grief and so the words are very poetic and deep. His vocal style is distinctive – intimate with an overlay of blues on a backdrop of folk. I found myself leaning in to listen more, absorbed by the mood.

 

  • Albert Man, Cheap Suit

What comes first, the music or the words? – its one of those ‘chicken and egg’ questions, but Albert Man knows his answer:

Lyrics are so important to me. I always have a theme I want to write about first and try to get a title. I then write the lyrics before I start adding any music or melody. I will re-write the lyrics so many times too until I get something I’m happy with.

His new album, Cheap Suit doesn’t disappoint. A mix of quirkiness and pathos, it provides social commentary, viewed through the small stuff. Things that happen and thoughts that arise, unremarked and fleeting, are given a moment of deeper reflection, conjuring up a response of “ah yes!” and “me too!”

  • Danielle Lewis, I’ll Wait

Danielle’s voice has been compared with Karen Carpenter and, although her tone is lighter, the effortless emotion that merits this comparison is apparent in the second track of the EP I’ll Wait. In complete contrast to Anywhere is Home, this is a soulful ballad that exudes romance and demands to be heard in the arms of someone special. Lovers of female vocalists will applaud the purity and control that flows from phrase to phrase, supported by the simplest of strings.

  • Hugh Kelly, Give Me All Your Love

Britain’s blue-eyed soul scene has been in resurgence recently, thanks to artists like Adele, Sam Smith and Joss Stone. But wouldn’t you like to hear a voice with a more lived-in quality? Hugh Kelly leaps out of the speakers with a tone that growls with the gravitas of life experience, reminiscent of Leonard Cohen or the late Joe Cocker. If we believe what Harry Chapin told us, back in the 70s, maybe it’s the drinking he did on his last big gig that make his voice go low?  That’s not far off the mark. Hugh puts the strength of his voice down to time spent in pubs and bars, but as a singer, not a drinker. That, together with busking unamped in the streets of his native Edinburgh, built the power in his vocals so he could be heard above the crowd. Take a listen and I guess you’ll be as amazed as I was to find that Hugh isn’t some long-standing musician with a back catalogue stretching through generations of music making. No, he is a 21-year-old newcomer, doing it all by himself (with help from dad, Tom) and already receiving accolades from local music press and radio.

Thanks Flo for sharing some of your favourite new music with us, love the voices of Hugh Kelly and Albert Man especially!

In order to get your free music from Angry Baby, just click on the links below and start creating your Summer 2016 playlist!

In Hoodies – She Got Caught

Jay Woodward – Blue Sky Blue

Albert Man – Cheap Suit

Danielle Lewis – I’ll Wait

Hugh Kelly – Give Me All Your Love

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*must be subscribed to thoughtsofjustafan

Almost exactly a year ago, I blogged about Beth Ford’s debut single, If I Could Escape, which reached number 3 on an iTunes chart.  Following a year in which Beth has performed live with People’s Soprano Rebecca Newman and tenor Jonathan Antoine as well as recording a duet with Michael Boe, I’m thrilled to be able to bring you the news that this wonderful single is being followed by a three track EP, to be released on Wednesday 13th July.

The Voyage comprises the title track, How We Love and Follow Your Dream and all three tracks showcase the improved maturity and strength of Beth’s voice.  Last year I was struck by how much Beth had improved since I first heard her sing (on Alfie Boe’s Bring Him Home tour, with Alfie himself and Flo Bannigan) and a full twelve months on, I’m again struck by a much richer tone in her voice.

Beth new photo

 

My favourite track is Chris Broom’s Follow Your Dream which sums up the performers mantra of believing in your dreams.  Beth herself says “This sums up so perfectly what I believe in, nothing is impossible if you pursue your dreams…The lyrics of the song are simply perfect ‘your star will shine if you follow your dream‘”.

All three tracks flow seamlessly, telling a story of voyage, adventure and following your dreams which is what Beth seems to be doing quite successfully at the moment. Indeed, this weekend saw Beth sit at the top of amazon’s movers and shakers chart, thanks to all the pre-orders so far – an amazing achievement.

To order your download of The Voyage, just click on the image below:

beth ford voyage

If you click through now, you will also receive a musical gift from Beth to say ‘thank you’ and the chance to grab a special edition CD which features two bonus songs not available anywhere else.  Having heard these extra two tracks, I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend pre-ordering now.  How do you get your hands on this?  Once you have pre-ordered, just email freemusic@angrybaby.co.uk with ‘The Voyage Bonus’ in the subject line – then you sit back and wait for your download and free musical gift to arrive.  Hurry – you only have until Wednesday to get this exclusive special offer!

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There are some great new shows on Broadway and in the West End and one of the newest on Broadway is Shuffle Along.  This review is from Roberta Kappus on the Angry Baby blog:

To attempt to describe Shuffle Along, an original musical comedy, is to do this show a disservice.

It has an excitement and vitality that cannot be conveyed. With a cast led by Audra McDonald (6 Tony awards), Brian Stokes Mitchell and Billy Porter (1 Tony each) expectations are high and easily met with the help of a very strong supporting cast. The acting, the singing, the dancing and the costumes are exceptional. This is a show that is dominated by the performances and not necessarily the plot.

The actual title of the show is Shuffle Along or the Making of the Musical Sensation of 1921 and All That Followed. It is not a revival of Shuffle Along but the story about it which incorporates numbers from the original.

Act 1 is the dream and the trials of bringing an all black show to Broadway in 1921 and its incredible success. Act 2 deals with the deteriorating relationships of the people involved with this accomplishment. Throughout a narrative by Brian Stokes Mitchell reinforces the story line and provides a learning experience about black theater in America.

Act 1 is very upbeat and celebratory with most of the dance numbers. It also features a song by Brian Stokes Mitchell sung completely a cappella which is stunning. Act 2 is more somber but has an incredible blues number by Billy Porter. Audra McDonald is just exceptional throughout. It is impossible to say which is her best – her acting, her dancing or her singing.

While this is a show worth seeing for its remarkable performances alone, I do not want to let the comedic aspect go unmentioned. There are a number of very good lines throughout the show. The ones dealing with the price of Broadway tickets received the largest laughs. There were also several very clever scenes which left one wondering how they were even conceived.

Without a doubt this is a show worth seeing assuming you can get a ticket for it.

This first appeared on www.angrybaby.co.uk.

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2015 was a phenomenal year for singer Beth Ford, with a top ten iTunes hit on her debut single, a viral YouTube video and a slot with soprano Rebecca Newman at Lichfield’s Garrick theatre.  All this and I haven’t mentioned Beth’s duet with Michael Boe for his album (with Sean Ashmore), Along the Way!  However, 2016 is only a few weeks old and looks set to be just as good as last year, as Beth has just performed with Jonathan Antoine on the Birmingham leg of his Believe tour.  Sharing the stage with Jonathan is an early highlight for Beth who said “I don’t have words to describe what was one of the best days of my life. I have been on Cloud nine ever since and I am so happy that everyone had a good time. I am grateful to Jonathan Antoine for giving me this fabulous opportunity”.

Angry Baby’s Flo Bannigan went along to the concert and reviewed it for us – thanks Flo!

Jonathan is the endearingly shy young man from Britain’s Got Talent who, along with his duet partner, Charlotte Jaconelli, shot to overnight fame at the audition stage.  Only Pudsey the dog robbed them of first place!  At that time, Jonathan was only 17 years old.  He has still only just turned 21, but despite his young age he has developed confidence that commands the stage as a solo performer. Thankfully, this isn’t at the expense of a natural personality and playfulness that infects his singing and his chat with his audience. But it was the music that we came to hear, and we were not disappointed. Jonathan is much more than a classically-trained singer. His effortless vocals move from the strength and projection required for Granada through rich, plaintive tones for romantic Italian arias, to a truly tender lullaby Hushabye Mountain and love songs sung with softness and intensity that requires truly accomplished interpretation.

Jonathan’s talent for singing is matched by his talent for choosing supporting acts and the highlight was local girl Beth Ford.  Enchanted by Beth’s pure, natural voice, which provided a gorgeous contrast to Jonathan’s rich tones throughout their duet of Come What May, there was an audible gasp from the audience when they heard that Beth is just 15 years old.

If it’s possible to feel an audience leaning in to hear and appreciate the emotion in every note, that’s the effect that Beth created through her solo Beautiful Dreamer. There is something other-worldly about Beth’s presence on stage and her hypnotic rendering of this classic song definitely left everyone wanting more.  [Luckily Beth can give you more – click here to get your free download of I’m Always Chasing Rainbows.]  Another local act, Rugby’s teenage ensemble The Strawhouse Singers ably rose to the challenge of supporting Jonathan’s powerful vocals.

Thank you for a wonderful review Flo!  Of course, like six degrees of separation, Jonathan and Beth have both appeared on the same stage as Alfie Boe – Jonathan at 2015’s Llangollen Eistedfodd and Beth memorably sang Impossible Dream with Alfie on his 2012 Bring Him Home tour.  Dare I say that Beth has gone one better than Jonathan in recording with a Boe?  As mentioned in the introduction, Beth recorded a duet version of Streets of London with Alfie’s elder brother Michael in 2015 – click here to order.

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plus the chance to win some Les Mis goodies

plus 4 exclusive photos!

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…free music from Michael Boe and Sean Ashmore!

For a strictly limited time only (the twelve days of Christmas in fact) Michael and Sean’s latest single, O Holy Night is available for a free download – aren’t they lovely?

In order to share this with you, I’m once again partnering with Angry Baby, so to add this free copy of Michael and Sean’s O Holy Night, just click here.  This offer will only be available for twelve days so get it now!

In the meantime, here is the video trailer:

Once you’ve got that and enjoyed it (which I know you will), you might like Michael and Sean’s 2015 album, Along the Way which is available from North Star Opera. I have a few favourite tracks but the stand out for me was the duet with thoughtsofjustafan favourite, Beth Ford.  The new arrangement of Streets of London shows off both voices to their best.

click here to get the free download of O Holy Night

Merry Christmas

and I hope you enjoy the rest of The Twelve Days of Christmas

from thoughtsofjustafan

xx

 

 

 

Christmas is almost upon us and here at thoughtsofjustafan we’re feeling very festive and listening to lots of Christmas music.  One artist I’ve been listening to is Beth Ford who has already had a phenomenal year and is topping it off with her version of Silent Night:

Beth’s voice, which is always described as ‘hauntingly beautiful’ and ‘mesmerising’ brings a whole new expression to this traditional carol. Even if you think you’ve already heard Silent Night too many times, you won’t want to miss out on Beth’s refreshing rendition -guaranteed to put a tingle in your spine for Christmas!

If you want to get a free download of Silent Night from Beth, all you need to do is click through from the video, or click here and pop your email under the red arrow!!

Beth is also releasing an ecard version of her video, which you can watch below, but if you want to show your friends and family you’re thinking of them this Christmas, you can share this link to give it as an ecard with the extra gift of a free copy of the track – what’s not to like about that?

Both videos feature Beth’s original artwork, which is very beautiful and subtly Christmassy.

This blog originally featured on Angry Baby – thanks Flo!

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