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Peppercorn - Barefoot


Review: Jack Foley

THE promotional material states that Peppercorn will be promoting her album with support slots alongside the likes of Ronan Keating and Darius - so you can imagine my dismay when it came to listening to said album.

Yet, surprisingly, the Peppercorn listening experience turned out to be a great surprise - a feisty, but upbeat, musical journey through soul, R 'n' B, country and folk-rock that manages to keep its eye on the pop-fixated charts, without sounding half as cheesy or manufactured as most of the leading artists currently occupying the top positions.

Not everything hits, and there is probably the odd ballad too many for my taste, but Barefoot is an accomplished long-player and one which will undoubtedly finds its way back into my CD player over the coming months.

The Peppercorn story is a curious one. She looked all set to burst onto the scene in 2001, when every national broadcaster had play-listed her, and virtually every national paper, magazine and TV station was poised to hail her as the new diva of British pop-rock.

But then she disappeared, apparently sick of the record company politics. It was a ballsy move. Few come back.

But thank goodness she did.

The Independent sums her album up best in the promo material, stating that 'Peppercorn has delivered a highly assured debut of sprightly acoustic soul-rock, sparked by sexual lyrics that place her somewhere between a more sassy, sexually aware Tracy Chapman and a baggage-free Alanis'.

Add the odd influence, such as Shania Twain, and you have probably hit the nail squarely on the head.

The album kicks off in tremendously infectious style, with the forthcoming single, Hyperventilating (out June 23), which really sets the tone for what to expect, a sassy, beat-laden, vocally-layered single which is instantly catchy.

I Care follows suit, with some really feelgood beats and guitar rifts, and a really great chorus - in which she pleads with a lover to remember the good things about her, even though she knows she can be 'a complete bitch'. It smacks of a refreshing, less self-important tone than most albums of this nature.

And yet Barefoot isn't just about one thing - or one musical style.

The string-led sweeping finale of fourth track, Karma, lends the song an orchestral, even classical, feel that it really doesn't deserve, but which, again, makes you sit up and take notice, before the acoustic melancholy of Brutal brings you back down to the album's real roots - in which she sings of a lover casting a spell and making her a zombie, while being 'brutally in love' with his lips and sex.

Nice To You is a feisty rant against the record company executives, which seems tailored for a single, with a curiously Jackson 5 sounding rift to kick things off. It may be angry, but the sense of fun is maintained throughout - in complete contrast to the harder, guilt-trip provided by the likes of Alanis. There is even a rap midway through, which puts Madonna to shame.

On the downside, tracks such as Free Love lend the album an unwanted Vonda Shepherd tone, but they are few and far between and the infectious, feelgood tone of the album is quickly restored in rockier numbers such as Bowing to Convention, in which she defiantly pledges not to fall into line with the masses.

With her strong voice and spunky attitude emerging triumphantly intact, it seems Peppercorn may well possess the sound of the Summer for fans of this type of thing. Count me in.

Track listing:
1. Hyperventilating
2. I Care
3. Sweetest Inspiration
4. Karma
5. Brutal
6. Can I?
7. Nice to You
8. Destiny
9. Free Love
10. Sweet One
11. To Err Is Human (yeah right)
12. Barefoot & Dirty Jeans (it's a vibe thing)
13. Bowing to Convention
14. Karma (acoustic)

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