Album Reviews

Hayley Hutchinson – Independently Blue

(Gut) UK release date: 1 August 2005


Sweet is the word that first springs to mind when listening to Hayley Hutchinson’s endearing debut album. And not in the sugary, tooth-ache inducing definition of the word, but in the genuinely good natured, soundtrack-to-a-summer’s-evening sense of things; Independently Blue is a lovely collection of songs that continue in the same vein as her superbly sunny first single Here’s The Love.

It was, I think, the Guardian that described Hutchinson’s sound as “charmingly lacking in artifice.” This is a pretty accurate observation – in fact it’s this unforced quality that stops her from being just another Norah Jones clone. Though there are similarities – Hutchinson is an undeniably attractive young woman with a gently distinctive voice – there’s a freshness to the way she presents herself and her material that is highly appealing.

This is more than in part down to Hutchinson’s voice, which has a distinct ring of Joni Mitchell to it, especially on tracks like Minor Key and I Have To Say I Love You. At one point she even uses the phrase “crazy scene,” which really you just have to love.

Mitchell is not the only artist that springs to mind as you listen, though the vocal similarities make her the most obvious one: the occasional twang of a banjo on find Myself Lost also brings to mind female folksters The Be Good Tanyas, Fall Down is a wee bit Tori Amos whilst Deadman reminds one of Sheryl Crow‘s more appealing moments.

This is all good company to be in; though Hutchinson does need to watch out for the odd lyrical drift into Alanis-alike psycho-jargon (“I am but a tourist to my emotionally-challenged guide”), but if she keeps this in check she’ll be fine.

No moulds will be broken by Independently Blue – but, unlike others I could name, Hutchinson’s sound does not seem to have been put together by ticking boxes on the unthreatening girl and her guitar checklist. There’s this Sixties, hippyish feel to the album that is all its own. And there are enough quirky touches to keep more demanding listeners engaged. The initially ever so delicate Wicked Thoughts, for example, slowly evolves into a flurry of handclaps and communal chanting of the chorus (“I’m sorry baby, for holding on…”) – it’s a subtle but lovely touch.

So, OK, it’s got Radio 2 written all over it, but this is an album that reveals hidden layers as you listen, that speaks of a greater perspective, of wider than average influences. The Joni Mitchell thing is perhaps overdone but there are worse people to emulate. As it is this is music to listen to with warm wind against your skin and a cool drink in your hand; sweet and warm and rather wonderful.


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