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Beth Rowley - Little Dreamer

Beth Rowley, Little Dreamer

Review by Jack Foley

IndieLondon Rating: 4.5 out of 5

WE’VE been getting excited about Beth Rowley for some time, ever since hearing her Violets EP back in December. With a great set of vocals and a genuinely eclectic taste in music, this young artist was equipped with an incredible talent and seemed perfectly poised for massive success.

It comes as a great relief to be able to write that her debut album Little Dreamer more than measures up to that promise. By turns breezy, melancholy, reflective and inspired, it also embraces a number of styles, from gospel and classic blues to shimmering pop.One of the most positive things about Rowley, however, is that she never goes for the obvious. Rather, she’s content to pay lip service to most of her influences and her album doesn’t feel engineered solely for chart success.

Album opener Nobody’s Fault But Mine, for instance, is a brooding slow-burner that’s delivered in a smooth, deliciously soulful style that’s perfectly backed by some low-key organs and some classy gospel backing singers late on. The guitar work, too, provides a wonderfully bluesy accompaniment that adds to the seductive feel of the song as a whole.

It’s followed by the dream-like Sweet Hours, where Rowley’s honey-coated vocals drip over some warm piano and laidback guitar riffs to create a chillout classic.

Another former single, So Sublime then changes the album’s pace again, enterting pop territory for what is, quite possibly, one of the most summery singles you’re likely to hear – ever. With breezy, pop-lite melodies, more sensual vocals and some really enchanting sentiments – “why is it so sublime to lose myself in a moment?” – you can’t help but reflect on your own special ones – moments when the worries of everyday life drift away and you get to feel relaxed about yourself. It’s a real heart-warmer that should melt even the most hardened cynic.

The feeling of positivity is carried through on her soaring intepretation of Bob Dylan’s classic I Shall Be Released, which re-imagines the song with an almost reggae-inspired background vibe. It’s lovely.

But then the album changes pace again, tossing in a grassroots gospel song in the form of the moody, bluesy Only One Cloud for a song that’s dripping in Deep South melancholy that boasts some really evocative lyrics. It’s an extremely classy effort.

When The Rains Came, meanwhile, is another grassroots, gospel-tinged classic that wouldn’t sound out of place on the soundtrack to the Coens’ O’ Brother Where Art Thou?. It certainly inspires the memory of the look and feel of that film.

Rowley picks up the pace again on the breezy, Northern soul-inspired Oh My Life, which stretches her vocals in different directions and comes complete with some nice stabs of brass, while The Duke Special duets with her on Angel Flying Too Close To The Ground, a poignant cover version of a Willie Nelson number that benefits from the boy-girl trade-off and some subtle guitar backing.

Another cover follows, on this occasion Billy Sherrill’s Almost Persuaded, which places Rowley’s striking voice against a lone piano and immediately transports you to a classic lounge (complete with more gospel backing).

The album is then rounded off with two more pearls: the dusky, soulful You Never Called Me Tonight, which finds the singer in scorned but feisty mode, and the harmonica-laden, foot-stomping classic that is Beautiful Tomorrow, which brings things to a joyful finale. You’ll be singing along in unison.

Little Dreamer is therefore an incredibly assured debut that marks a major success for Rowley. It’s a cracking listen that pleases, enchants, beguiles and, quite possibly, opens your ears to many different styles of music. And that can only be a positive thing.

We pray that it receives the commercial attention it undoubtedly deserves.

Read our interview with Beth Rowley

Download picks: So Sublime, Nobody’s Fault But Mind, I Shall Be Released, Oh My Life, When The Rains Come, Almost Persuaded, Beautiful Tomorrow

Track listing:

  1. Nobody’s Fault But Mine
  2. Sweet Hours
  3. So Sublime
  4. I Shall Be Released
  5. Only One Cloud
  6. When The Rains Came
  7. Oh My Life
  8. Angels Flying Too Close
  9. Almost Persuaded
  10. You Never Called
  11. Beautiful Tomorrow