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Posts Tagged ‘Acoustic

The refreshing and soul-quenching sounds of Charlene Soraia, @CharleneSoraia

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Charlene Soraia has brought me many unexpected and pleasant moments of inner peace, over the past few weeks. Her refreshing and soul-quenching rendition of The Calling‘s ‘Wherever You Will Go’ is the accompanying track to the new Twinings Tea advertisement in the UK and anyone who knows me, knows that I love two things: tea and listening to music whilst drinking tea; combine the two and my inner cylinder head gasket is quite likely to explode.


Soraia is a 22-year old singer-songwriter and BRIT School graduate, hailing from South East London. She is signed to Indie label, Peacefrog Records and cites her influences as ’60s Psychedelia, Jazz and Prog-Rock, influences which can clearly be heard on her debut album ‘Moonchild.’ Such has been the furore caused by Soraia’s rising star, the release of  ‘Moonchild’ has been brought forward to November 21st, 2011. She will also be embarking on her first headline tour of the UK next February, 2012.


I find two tracks particularly striking on the album: ‘Lightyears’ and ‘When We Were Five.’ Both highlight Soraia’s exceptional vocal range and pitch, whilst also drawing the listener in to her lyrical dreams of what could be and what should have been. The introductory and closing segments to ‘When We Were Five’ are nothing short of breathtaking and it is here that we can see that little something extra that Soraia has to offer, which, to date, has elluded most of her commercially successful BRIT School peers; they’re just not as vocally diverse as she.


I predict big, bright and beautiful things for Charlene Soraia in 2012 and beyond and I state that, as I drink a cup of Twining’s finest.

‘Moonchild’ includes: When We Were Five /  Daffodils / Lightyears / Rowing / Meadow Child / ‘Twas Lovely / Bipolar / Postcards from iO / Bike / Midsummer Moon in June /Wishing (You) Well / Almost Stole A Book / Wherever You Will Go.


Written by shelleyhanveywriter

November 2, 2011 at 4:35 pm

Scottish sass from the elliptic-eyed entertainer: album review of Amy Macdonald’s ‘A Curious Thing’

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Musically speaking, the only thing I love more than discovering a new artist or band, is discovering an already established artist or band, that I’ve heard some  tracks by but never that one glass slipper of a song that made me sit up and pay attention. I did just that a few weeks ago when I first heard ‘This Pretty Face’ by Amy Macdonald and now I’m very happy to report, that I’m a fully fledged Macdonald fan…though I just need to get mini-me Tracy Barlow out of my head when I pronounce her name out loud.

Amy Macdonald is a 23-year-old singer songwriter from Dunbartonshire, Scotland; producing soft rock and pop tracks as if her mind were a veritable conveyor belt of creativity and musical craftsmanship. Her voice, unsurprisingly and perhaps fittingly in this autotuned age, is her USP; coming somewhere between Dolores O’Riordan of The Cranberries and a deeper-toned, rock-edged Sharleen Spiteri. The guitar is Macdonald’s weapon of choice and she uses it with skill and finesse, as she attacks her tracks with passion and prose, seldom found in such a young performer.

You might be familiar with Macdonald’s first album and most successful single of the same name, ‘This Is the Life’, released in 2007, with the album selling 3 million copies  to date. She has since achieved considerable success in Europe and released her second album ‘A Curious Thing’ in March, 2010. This record has more soft, almost stadium rock leanings than the former; as Macdonald recounts past friendships, past acquaintances and the past perfect. She talks about staying true to herself, about looking beyond the superficial and ponders where her music will take her in ten years time; understandable musings at the sophomore stage you might say, but I think that there is more to this Scottish sensation than an easy analogy; she appears to be a genuine and down to earth sort, wanting only to write music and lyrics which people enjoy and preferring to shun the celebrity parties and the high gloss temptations. It was this likeable demeanour, as well as the aforementioned ‘This Pretty Face’ track, which brought me to Macdonald’s door and I’ve not stopped knocking just yet.

Kicking off the twelve-strong set with the first release from the album, ‘Don’t Tell Me That It’s Over’, Macdonald gives a rich and empowering soft rock vocal performance, she sounds in control and spirited as she states that (it) ‘isn’t over till the song is sung’; see previous comment on the Scottish sass. I’ve always been particularly struck by Macdonald’s vocal tone, sounding more Irish in origin I think, than her Scottish roots. Perhaps I am just hearing the unmistakable Celtic influences coming through. Either way, it produces a richness and warmth to her contralto range which I think suits the soft rock-pop genre perfectly. Next up is second single ‘Spark’ which is probably my favourite off the album. With its strong guitar hooks and theme of reinvention, the track can’t help but invigorate the listener as Macdonald likens herself to ‘an astronaut in the sky/the light in the dark/the match, the spark’; she is speaking about feeling buoyant, brand new and ready for whatever comes her way. Certainly no ‘O’ by Damian Rice, I think you’ll agree.

‘No Roots’ gives the first opportunity to kick back and bathe in a soft rock ballad, but don’t be fooled as after just a few bars Macdonald builds up to a dreamy acoustic guitar sequence, resulting in yet more classic electric-stringed rock sounds. You could liken the instrumentation on this track to the seasons of the heart or the stages of a common relationship; starting slow and steady with maximum control, building in intensity and passion, taking in various sights and sounds as memories are created and then finally establishing the very roots that she said were lacking in the track’s title. ‘Love Love’ comes next which was the fourth single release from the record. This is an upbeat rock-pop track which caused me to have a particularly random musical connection. With its catchy hook, addictive nature and almost guilty-pleasured fun quality, this track put me in mind of Status Quo. Yes, as I say, random. I think in truth this is a mere recollection of many wonderful weekend nights dancing to ‘Rocking All Over The World’ with my late Nan. My older brother fancied himself to be a DJ at the age of 8 or 9 and had the decks, the microphone, the whole shebang. Nan would babysit us two and my other older brother and our night would consist of watching James Bond films, eating Stix crisps and Skippy bars and then getting down to the grooves of The Quo. Whenever I remember such times I feel that lovely pull of nostalgia and a sense of being really happy in that moment. I could never thank Francis Rossi enough…but back to the artist in question; ‘Love Love’ evokes similar connotations for me, as Macdonald ponders how to express her feelings to that special someone and why her idealised version of romantic events never come true…all against a bouncy electric-dreamed backdrop.

‘An Ordinary Life’ was written after Macdonald stumbled in to a showbiz party in Glasgow, hosted by fellow Scot Gerard Butler. Macdonald recalls seeing men and women fawn over the Hollywood A lister and wondered what his life was like behind the scenes, the cameras and out of the media glare; ‘what makes you happy, what makes you sad.’ Again, Macdonald states that she doesn’t care about the camera or the lights and almost seems to feel sorry for him and his existance…I’m with her on one score, I feel sorry for his dialect coach who has surely been run out of town after the pathetic excuse for an Irish accent he displayed in feature film ‘PS, I Love You.’ Come to think of it, I can’t recall an accent he actually does well, except perhaps his own, and even then I’m a little suspicious. ‘My Only One’ is a tender acoustic ballad dedicated to someone in the spotlight, who has the whole world looking at them and Macdonald is urging them to stand tall and keep true to themselves; perhaps her footballer fiancée? ‘What Happiness Means To Me’ is another poignant number, said to refer to their relationship and her love of those moments of stillness which can provoke such powerful and vivid memories. The track builds with orchestral accompaniment and would be the perfect soundtrack for a rousing and feel good feature film.

Whilst ‘This Pretty Face’ takes a literal pop at celebrity culture and superficiality, ‘Troubled Soul’ delivers a more delicate message. The track opens with vast electric strings, sounding not dissimilar to U2, as Macdonald takes the listener on a journey through expansive landscapes of peace and emotion, waiting for her ‘troubled soul’ to realise that her smile and eyes will be sticking around, so maybe they should too.

I think this is a brilliant second album, perhaps even more impressive than the first and I think that it deserves just such credit. I can only hope that the world Macdonald dreams of; one where people look beyond the surface and never let themselves forget where they came from, will one day become a reality.

Written by shelleyhanveywriter

January 7, 2011 at 5:22 pm

Rumer, ‘Seasons Of My Soul’ – album review

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There’s no better feeling than hearing a song which takes you back to your childhood, or any particularly joyful or emotionally significant time of your life; several tracks do just that for me, usually by such artists as The Beatles, Nilsson, Crowded House and Cliff Richard…oh yes, I do enjoy a bit of the Barbados dweller.

Another such artist or specifically, voice, would have to be Karen Carpenter. And herein lies my appreciation and excitement for a similarly vocally gifted female, who goes by the name of Rumer.

Rumer, real name Sarah Joyce (born 1979, Pakistan) was discovered by American composer and music producing legend Burt Bacharach, who was so impressed with the voice he heard that he flew her to California so that he could hear the instrument in person…imagine getting that call! I’ve always loved Bacharach’s work; producing countless hit songs and compositions for the likes of Dionne Warwick and Dusty Springfield. With a musical icon such as this on your side, the future could only look positively blinding for the British Soul singer-songwriter.

Rumer’s debut albumSeasons Of My Soul’ was released in early November 2010 and has spent the subsequent weeks firmly rooted in the top ten of the UK Albums Chart, whilst the number of positive commentaries from critics continues to flourish. The eleven-track record includes debut single ‘Slow‘ and recently released second single ‘Aretha‘ and is to put it simply; a listener’s utopia. Each track possesses an almost tranquilizing quality; as Rumer’s vocal tone, combined with the misty melodies, evoke a sense of basking for the ears.

The similarities between Rumer and Karen Carpenter are strikingly evident and unlike other critical comparisons, this one  I feel is both justified and relevant. It tends to annoy me when I hear people described as “…the next x/y/z” as I don’t really see the point of such comparisons; new artists should offer something different, something exciting, not simply a replica of what has gone before. I understand why the music industry bills people as such however; it helps the music-buying public to identify the type of artists that they might like, but I often find this not to be the case when all is said and done. You tend to simply be left disappointed by a slightly below par version of an already established singer or band and when you start with a negative, it’s difficult to turn that around. Or maybe I’m just too hard to please…?!

The album artwork echoes the notion of childhood memories and the part that music clearly had to play in those memories for Rumer. Kicking off with ‘Am I Forgiven‘, the record sets its stall out perfectly from the outset; the track is classic soul with Bacharach-style hints of jazz flavourings throughout, as Rumer speaks about such trademark subjects of the genre – heartbreak, regret, inner emotional turmoil…it’s all good stuff, people! ‘Slow‘ is a definite album highlight and it is clear to see why this track was chosen to introduce Rumer to the music-buying public. The title of the track is literal in its reference to the pace and mood of the lyrics and melody, which is precisely what makes it so addictive in its ability to soothe and seduce.

Take Me As I Amis one of my particular favourites from the album. I like the simplicity yet significance of the track’s sentiment; Rumer asks that she, or rather the subject of the piece, be accepted for who she is, if the love she refers to is indeed unconditional. A simple concept, yet at times seemingly the hardest thing in the world to communicate; then again, perhaps the very fact that you have to explain this concept to your betrothed signifies that you’ve gone past the point of no return? Who knows; I do like to analyse lyrics to within an inch of their lives! ‘Aretha‘ is an moody ode to Aretha Franklin; one of Rumer’s idols and greatest inspirations. Rumer felt that Aretha; or rather her music, was the only thing that she could turn to during family troubles at home. The result is a highly polished performance, showcasing her vocal capabilities to perfection. This would be a great Sunday afternoon track to lounge around to, or perhaps a relaxing soundtrack to a long, otherwise uneventful journey.

Any of the tracks could be future singles; I also particularly like ‘Thankful‘ and ‘On My Way Home.’ Rumer has recently collaborated with Bacharach and playwright Steven Sater, on a record entitled ‘Rumer Sings Bacharach at Christmas.’ This special one-off release will hit the shops and online on December 13th, 2010. I think I’ll surely be chomping on some festive turkey to the sounds of this winning compilation.

All in all, a delectably dulcet debut from an artist which I am very much looking forward to hearing more from. The late, great Karen Carpenter would surely agree.

To find out more about Rumer, to catch a live show or to listen to more tracks please visit:

Written by shelleyhanveywriter

November 30, 2010 at 3:44 pm

Ethereal sounds of Erica Buettner and moodful melodies of Mike Cavanaugh

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I thought I would share two new discoveries with you this week; the ethereal sounds of Erica Buettner and the moodful melodies of Mike Cavanaugh.

Both singer-songwriters hail from the Northeast of the US; however Buettner now resides in that whimsical and wonderful metropolis that is Paris, France, whilst Cavanaugh is currently based in Boston. Location-aside; both do possess creative and artistic similarities, in their shared love of romantic lyrical imagery and sweeping sentiments. This is like candy to the proverbial baby for me.

Buettner moved to Paris in order to study French and Literature; can it get any more idyllic? According to her MySpace profile (, her music can be heard softly playing ‘in french bookshops and parisian clubs‘…it’s the stuff of dreams really, isn’t it. I really like the continental-sounding opening of ‘Time Traveling’ and the fable-inspired ode to love and life that is ‘True Love and Water’ . I can just picture myself back in that dimly-lit cafe on the Champs-Elysees, sipping on my scorching hot chocolate (still the nicest one I have ever had, to date) and counting out our pennies to see whether we could stretch to two main meals that night…ah young love, it’d be sweet if I hadn’t lost at least a stone in a week…

There aren’t many video clips of Buettner on YouTube or the likes; best to take a look at her MySpace profile for up-to-date tracks and live performances.

Cavanaugh cites his influences as Ray LaMontagne, Damien Rice and The Swell Season and you can certainly hear elements of each within his music. Possessing a similarly low-key and gravelly tone as Rice; Cavanaugh sounds pitch perfect on tracks such as ‘What You’re Doing to Me’ and ‘Don’t Ask Me.’ With just an acoustic guitar for company, this musician leaves his peers in  the shade with his complex yet complementary mix of moody blues and breezy beats. ‘Hold On’ has a James Blunt sound to it; perhaps unsurprisingly so, as Cavanaugh is quite the fan of the British wordsmith.
I wish we got to see more of the, undoubtedly numerous, promising singer-songwriters from beyond our shores, but alas, unless they’re spotted in the right place and at the right time they’re probably destined to remain that little bit out of reach, for now.

Written by shelleyhanveywriter

September 23, 2010 at 5:23 pm

Michelle Branch and my undying love for Buffy

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When I think back to 2001, I can’t say that any particularly memorable events occurred; having graduated the previous year, I was working in a temporary capacity for a government department in a nearby, again, largely uneventful town. But I do remember there being a certain weekly highlight to my social calendar…the airing of a brand new episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer!

Before the days of RPattz et al, my sister and I would make ourselves comfortable; before settling down to the wit and wisdom of Joss Whedon’s finest example of a foray in to fantasy television drama. The exploits of Buffy, Willow and Spike kept us hooked for the full 43 minutes, with an unbeatable mix of cutting comebacks and comedy capers; from the early days of  high school horror in ‘The Harvest’ and ‘Halloween’, through to the sacrifice and sophistication of ‘Becoming’and ‘Graduation’, the groundbreaking ‘Hush’ and ‘Restless’ concluding with a clever, 360-degree emotional climax in ‘Chosen.’ For all those who may choose to cast doubt, I simply say this; Buffy was highly influential back then, as well as today; it brought us strong feisty females that didn’t need protecting, became the blueprint for future supernatural televised dramas and the show just never ages, a testament to the quality of the scriptwriting.

There was one particular element of the show which I also looked forward to; the live music/guest star performances in The Bronze. It was here that I discovered the vocal talents and songwriting triumphs of Michelle Branch.

Born on July 2nd,1983 Michelle is an American singer-songwriter, who has experimented with pop-rock, acoustic and country sounds; always managing to sound authentic and real. I put this down to her approachable and down to earth demeanour, combined with her earthy and effortless tone. Michelle’s debut album ‘The Spirit Room’ was released in the UK in 2001 and had three hit singles; ‘Everywhere’, ‘All You Wanted’ and ‘Goodbye to You.’ It was the third of which that she performed on Buffy episode ‘Tabula Rasa.’ (See clip below).

Michelle received her first guitar aged fourteen and after teaching herself, she wrote her first song. Realising her talent, her parents financed her first independent album ‘Broken Bracelet.’ Performing gigs in her native Sedona, Arizona; Michelle covered the likes of Sheryl Crow, Jewel and Fleetwood Mac, all of which she has consistently cited as influences on her music. Another of my favourite Michelle tracks is ‘The Game of Love’, which is a collaboration with Santana. This has a great deep southern summertime feel to it and the mutual love of strings is clearly evident.

2003 saw the release of Michelle’s second album ‘Hotel Paper’; this record wasn’t as well received as her debut, which has always been somewhat of a mystery to me. The pop-rock and country influences are still there, the catchy lyrics and addictive melodies are still there; so why the mixed reviews? 2003 saw a bit of an influx of American look-a-like, sound-a-likes with Vanessa Carlton and Stacey Orrico to name but two, but likewise, when did too much of a good thing become a problem?!

For all you Sex And The City fans out there, you will be familiar with Michelle’s track ‘Breathe’ from a certain episode entitled ‘The Catch’ in Season 6, were Carrie is tasked with trying out a flying trapeze in Central Park and she realises that ‘letting go’ is not so scary as long as you have a good safety net, namely your friends.

After recording and performing with longtime friend and backup singer Jessica Harp as The Wreckers, Michelle has now started writing for her third studio album which will be titled ‘Everything Comes and Goes.’ I’ve been waiting for news of a UK tour since 2001…maybe just maybe, 2011 will be the year! The first single from the album,‘Sooner or Later’, was released digitally in 2009 and I’ve included a clip below to give you a taste of what’s surely to come.

You might like to check out her recent collaboration with Timbaland too; this track ‘Getaway’ is available to download now from iTunes.

Hopefully you’ve found a couple of pieces that you like on here; or perhaps a renewed passion for the original vampire-fighting, splintery-tongued Sarah Michelle Gellar? I’ll finish with another of my most memorable live performances from the show, this time coming from Angie Hart with ‘Blue.’ This was featured during ‘Conversations With Dead People’ from Season Seven and was actually written for that particular episode at Whedon’s request. This video was produced by hauntboo at YouTube, so credit where it’s due on this one.

Grrr! Argh!

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