It’s fair to say there’s a bit of a buzz about Juliet Turner at the moment. Hailing from Northern Ireland, she’s picked up several “Best Newcomer” awards recently and is already onto her third album. Although she’s virtually unknown outside of Ireland, Season Of The Hurricane comes with the approval of the unlikely powerful figure of Terry Wogan – the man who made Katie Melua a household name almost single-handedly.
It would be a grave disservice to Turner though if she was to be bracketed in the same easy listening category as Melua. Season Of The Hurricane is full of intriguing songs coloured by some brilliantly imaginatively lyrics – it’s hard to imagine Melua coming out with something so daring and attention grabbing as the opening track on here for example.
That particular song, The Greatest Show On Earth, is simply wonderful. Like a less paranoid Portishead, the melody is creepily atmospheric with some nice little electronic effects in the background. Turner’s memorable lyrics add to the beguiling mood (“I need a man who’s gonna stick around / Not somebody who will leave me through a trapdoor”) and her voice, while maybe not being the strongest of instruments, perfectly suits the material here.
With such a strong opening track, the rest of the album initially fails to match up, but repeated listening brings its own rewards. Turner has been compared to Alanis Morrisette, but to these ears Beth Orton is a more worthy comparison. She shares with Orton the ability to conjure up images with one phrase – the chorus of Business As Usual being a prime example (“I’m standing next to Lady Liberty / She brings an unexpected tear”).
If there’s a fault here, it’s that her rough edges have been too smoothed down by the production here. A song such as Vampire has some superb, and remarkably explicit, lyrics about sexual guilt (“She pulls him so deep inside that he’s afraid he’ll divide her”) – yet the mixing of the song makes it sound like one of Dido‘s cast-offs. Maybe the people who surround Turner are anxious that she receives the success she deserves, but her compatriot Gemma Hayes managed to produce the successful and spiky Night On My Side a couple of years ago.
Yet there are enough positives here to render that criticism a minor one. Turner’s voice retains her Northern Irish accent throughout, which makes the material refreshingly different, whether it be skipping through Everything Beautiful Is Burning or a rootsy rendition of Lee Hazelwood‘s Sugartown. Also, the stark No Good In This Goodbye is amongst the most beautiful songs you’ll hear all year.
There’s certainly enough potential here to suggest that Juliet Turner will produce a truly excellent album soon enough. Season Of The Hurricane isn’t that record, but it will more than be enough for now. Turner is definitely a real talent – maybe Wogan should move into A & R.