Hem’s debut British release starts with a shorttraditional American solo verse sung by Sally Ellyson.It was this that songwriter Dan Messe first heard onSally’s demo, which convinced him to collaborate withSally for this release, and from the firstheartbreaking strains of Lord, Blow The Moon OutPlease, I too was almost hypnotised by heroutstanding voice.
She is one of those singers who cancommand and control an audience’s feelings andthoughts while only emitting the faintest of sounds.She puts vibrato on the lines at just the rightmoment, and once you have heard her voice, it isdifficult to concentrate on anything else except her.
Not that it would be a hard task, for although notflawless, this album has several streaks of geniusscattered through it. The music explores thetraditional elements of American music, and justmanages to remain relevant in a modern musicalcontext.
The album is relatively long in terms of tracks, andit must be said that a few of these seemed veryaverage in a musical sense. For instance, Betting onTrains uses several additional musicians, includingpedal steel, and wind and string sections. However, ithardly seems to make full use of these extra players.
This particular song reminded me of The Corrs (whichmay be the reason that I am criticising it). Anotherfairly unsuccessful song takes the form of Lazy Eye.Although it starts promisingly, there is a hugelymisplaced violin cadenza which hampers and almostcontradicts the few touches of magic in the lyrics.
In the majority of the tracks, the lyrics are indeed ajoy to behold.
Outstanding tracks include the Burying Song, the filmyPolly’s Dress, and the mesmerising Sailor, with itsgorgeous and fantastically arranged brass and stringwriting. The album may indeed be worth buying for thissong alone.
Overall, the album achieves its goal: there isdefinitely a folk element, and in a way one can drawparallels between the traditional American music andits modern counterpart (Betting on Trains is probablythe most ‘modern’ of all of them, and even straysdangerously close to, erm, dare I say it…. Pop!).
Some of the tracks would not be out of place on aHollywood film soundtrack, and I even wouldn’t besurprised to hear Waltz on Classic FM. Several songsare reminiscent of Goldfrapp, and Ellyson’s voicedefinitely adds a sparkle to the proceedings, with avoice beautifying ’30s Parisian cabarets.
The flawed moments I have mentioned are submerged bymoments where your heartstrings are pulled, your hairstands on end, your body becomes numb, and the futureof popular music almost seems safe. Go buy.