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Hey Negrita - Burn The Whole Place Down

Hey Negrita, Burn The Whole Place Down

Review by Jack Foley

IndieLondon Rating: 4.5 out of 5

THE new album from Hey Negrita is a passion project that’s raw, honest, stripped down and utterly mesmerising.

Inspired by the success of a series of acoustic performances for various BBC shows – including Bob Harris on Radio 2 – the band took time out from their tour in support of the 2008 album, You Can Kick, and shifted into Miloko Studios, south London, for a spur-of-the-moment session.

Explains singer-songwriter Felix Bechtolsheimer: “The idea was to cut as many tracks as we could in five hours without any overdubs or edits. So, we put down our electric guitars, turned off the amps and stripped back the drums.

“We just sat in a circle and put some microphones up. We didn’t even bother with headphones. We wanted to capture the raw energy of one of our live performances, while preserving the intimacy of how we sound when we’re jamming in the kitchen.”

The result, while evoking fond memories of the MTV Unplugged Sessions, is a scintillating collection of songs that exemplify all there is to love about Hey Negrita’s style of country-blues.

Banjo, acoustic guitar, harmonica… all have pride of place; Felix’s unmistakeable husky vocals take centre stage, and there’s even a cinematic sense to both the heartfelt nature of the vocals and the music itself. Indeed, sometimes it’s easy to forget this was the product of an impromptu session such is the good time vibe coming off it.

Songs fly out and impress from all quarters of the album, whether it’s the quiet ambience of former single One Mississippi… written several years ago while on a boat off the coast of Greenland, in the Polar Circle (find out more) or the lovelorn combination of dusky guitars and seering harmonica that help to make up Cold.

One absolute standout is the cinematic Rope, which has a harmonica backing to rival Ennio Morricone’s spaghetti Western score, while providing terrific emotional resonance to the true story of a black guy in Alabama who was falsely accused of raping a white woman. It’s a brilliantly composed song and one that demands repeat listens. Find out more

The same can be said for title track and forthcoming single Burn The Whole Place Down, a love song of sorts that demonstrates the rockier sound of the band; or Devil In My Shoes, which recalls Felix’s attempt to try and shut up, hold on and fit in with the rest of the world following his addiction to smack, crack, whisky and methadone.

Listen out, too, for tracks such as Can’t Walk Away, which boasts a really feelgood vibe, Kathmandu and album closer Fishin’, which brings down the curtain on the endeavour in supremely laidback and satisfying fashion.

Hey Negrita barely put a foot wrong on Burn The Whole Place Down so you’ll be missing out if you don’t discover it at the earliest opportunity.

Read our interview with Hey Negrita’s Felix Bechtolsheimer

Download picks: Burn The Whole Place Down, One Mississippi, Room Service, Rope, Cold, Can’t Walk Away, Devil In My Shoes, Fishin’

Track listing:

  1. Burn The Whole Place Down
  2. Room Service
  3. One Mississippi
  4. Rope
  5. Here I Come
  6. Cold
  7. Nine To Five
  8. Can’t Walk Away
  9. Devil In My Shoes
  10. Kathmandu
  11. Lay Me Down
  12. Fishin’