New Red Dress – Helen Boulding Album review

5 stars (out of 5)

1

Helen BouldingI know it looks like it’s more unusual for female singer/songwriters to be unsigned than signed at the moment (a bit like the late 80’s in Scotland when you were offered a contract if you looked good wearing a guitar), but the latest trend has highlighted some genuinely talented and original performers, including Helen Boulding.

Some of the current crop have been hothoused through performing arts institutions, while others have developed their skills by playing on the local circuit. Helen Boulding’s local circuit was Sheffield, which has had a thriving and eclectic music scene for many years and the influences of many different musical styles can be heard on this album – country, Celtic and reggae for example.

The songs range from ethereal ballads (“I Always Look This Blue”) to the all-out rock (“Breathe”) giving the opportunity to showcase a truly astonishing voice which can belt out rockers while still being able to sound fragile and vulnerable on the quieter songs. Everyone seems to have a favourite female singer as a comparison for Helen, and my point of reference after listening to the entire album was Linda Ronstadt although the breathy vocals do sound a lot like Imogen Heap (who’s apparently a good mate).

On the second play I was singing along to “Copenhagen”, which I guess makes it a pretty good choice for a single, although I don’t think it’s the best song on the album or even the strongest single contender. When the album starts, I want to listen from start to finish, although I must confess my finger hovers over the skip button during the chorus of “Housework” but I resist. The other reaction to the album is that I want to see her play live because most of the arrangements seem to have great dynamics for live performance and I really want to hear that voice in a live setting.

Oh, and I should mention that Helen comes from a sporting family and has 2 footballing brothers playing for my team, which didn’t influence this review in any way