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Florence Rawlings - A Fool In Love

Florence Rawling, A Fool In Love

Review by Jack Foley

IndieLondon Rating: 3 out of 5

FLORENCE Rawlings is a major star in waiting. Having been discovered by Mike Batt (of Katie Melua fame) at the age of 13, she’s had to bide her time completing her studies before being given the opportunity, at 20, to follow in the footsteps of some of Batt’s more illustrious discoveries.

With debut album A Fool In Love she takes large strides in the right direction, even if the album flatters to deceive at times.

By virtue of the fact that Rawlings has chosen to set her sublime vocals to a very Motown-inspired backdrop, complete with the Mark Ronson inspired horn sound of the moment, she’s destined to draw obvious comparisons with people like Amy Winehouse and Duffy.

The songs on the album, meanwhile, comprise a mix of dusted off cover versions and new songs penned by Batt. And early on, especially, they follow a tried and tested formula.

On the plus side, Rawlings’ vocals are the best thing about the LP. They are emphatic, delivered with an emotional intensity that belies her tender age (muc like a young Joss Stone), and she’s clearly got the goods to go a long way.

But the LP itself only delivers a few moments to genuinely get excited about for anyone seeking something different from the norm.

Album opener Wouldn’t Treat A Dog, for instance, is a dusky Motown-sounding track that’s more about showcasing those vocals rather than really putting forward anything striking like, say, Duffy’s Rockferry (although it has to be said that Mercy was the one that really did it for Duffy).

While The Only Woman In The World is another slice of Northern Soul that gives Rawlings a good workout without really doing anything innovative. Both songs come backed with gospel singers.

A cover version of Allen Toussaint’s Riverboat delivers the first real highlight, and is delivered in suitably smoky style, complete with an upbeat jazzy vibe. For the first time, Rawlings sounds like she’s really having fun.

Jump On The Wagon has a sassy chorus that’s good, while Wolf Man resorts back to the gospel-tinged backing that actually becomes increasingly detrimental to the overall enjoyment of the album. Rawlings’ vocals again shine, and the mouth organ blasts are good, but Batt (who penned) seems unable to take too many risks.

Her sassy cover of Ike Turner’s A Fool In Love is fun and funky, albeit with more of those gospel-sounding backing vocals, while there’s a snappy vibe about former single Hard To Get that is easy to like and nod your head to.

But the next real highlight comes in the form of another cover, Take Me In Your Arms And Love Me, which is fun (albeit again backed by more gospel singers), as well as her foot-tappingly addictive take on Chuck Berry’s Can’t Catch Me, which is more of an old time rocker than anything too Motown (despite Batt’s best efforts).

The bluesy pomp of A Dollar Of My Pain offers more good value and Love Can Be A Battlefield firm evidence of Rawlings’ ability to deliver a heartfelt ballad with genuine meaning.

But while Rawlings undoubtedly emerges as a star, you can’t help but feel that Batt’s decision-making has somewhat let her down.

A Fool In Love is a good debut that confirms Rawlings as a star to watch (who’ll undoubtedly grow), but it’s a little too shackled by Batt’s decision to play things too safe and stick resolutely to the formula for success of the moment. It’s time to let Rawlings go free and really blossom…

Read our interview with Florence Rawlings

Download picks: Riverboat, A Fool in Love, Hard To Get, Can’t Catch Me, A Dollar of My Pain

Track listing:

  1. Wouldn’t Treat a Dog
  2. The Only Woman in the World
  3. Riverboat
  4. Jump on the Wagon
  5. Wolf Man
  6. A Fool in Love
  7. Hard to Get
  8. Can’t Hold Your Hand
  9. Take Me in Your Arms and Love Me
  10. Can’t Catch Me
  11. A Dollar of My Pain
  12. Love Can Be a Battlefield