It’s likely that most readers will know little of Charlie Dore, despite the release of her fourth album. To be honest, I hadn’t heard of her until it arrived at my door, so a bit of research was necessary. What I discovered was disturbing to say the least. Dore has written for Tina Turner, Barry Manilow and, most worryingly, Celine Dione.
I panicked. I imagined echoes of Mandy and ’80s power-ballads. Worst of all, I imagined that bloody song from Titanic. So it was a pleasant surprise when I heard Cuckoo Hill, a subtle, melodic album, more akin to Joni Mitchell than the dreaded toothy-smiled Canadian songstress.
One criticism often aimed at folk-pop music lies in a lack of variety, in an abundance of floaty songs but nothing else, but Cuckoo Hill cannot be included in this. The songs are vast in their range, from the almost poppy-ballad refrain in Looking For My Own Lone Ranger to the county feel of When Bill Hicks Died to the bluesy Your Lover Called, the album has bags of variety, and definitely has a broad appeal.
Dore’s lyrics are competent and sensitive (although with a few slip-ups, such as the questionable rhyming of ‘wire’ and ‘fire’). And there are some stand out songs: Mr Williams is unexpectedly lively, and Captain Of Industry is particularly Joni-like, and seems to be the best song on the album. But what these tracks stand out from is a level of songs which are very nearly as good – there are no songs to hate here.
In fact, the album is so pleasant that it leaves you feeling that no-one could possibly hate it – and this is its main weakness. Cuckoo Hill doesn’t live up to it’s name: it is more a flat plane of good songs than anything so climactic as a hill. It doesn’t have a pinnacle. It leaves the listener feeling happy about what is essentially nice background music, but there is a lack of any lasting effect. In essence, the music is good, but the album is a bit beige.
The songs are well constructed but they lack the more visceral, present passion that is needed to make me love them. Dore’s voice is good but is not arresting. Something extra (perhaps even extraordinary) is needed to differentiate Dore from the many other hugely talented singer/songwriter females who are growing in popularity at the moment (I’m thinking in particular of artists like Aimee Mann or Regina Spektor, who inevitably have to be considered Dore’s more successful competition).
Overall, I would describe the album as solid. There’s nothing wrong with it in any major way; there are no terrible songs or nauseating lines. However, what there is has to be pushed further before it will remain in my, or the public’s, memory for any length of time. Maybe then people will know who Charlie Dore is.