Saturday, 26 October 2019

ALBUM REVIEW: Hannah Rose Platt - Letters Under Floorboards : Continental Song City

The lure to compare and contrast a new album with the previous work of an artist is one mulled over to determine any degree of relevance. In the midst of gathering some thoughts on Hannah Rose Platt’s long awaited follow up to her 2015 debut effort, thoughts did turn back to an artist who drifted under the microscope via an independent network and left a positive impression. Not only was PORTRAITS dusted down and played, but past published thoughts were relived to gauge the starting point of a journey that ventures in a new direction now that LETTERS UNDER FLOORBOARDS is delivered to the world. 

Firstly, the four years between releases has seen Hannah striving to remain a presence to such an extent that her own network has solidified in an established community where it was initially felt her music would find synergy and conformance. So a case of all change in the team assembled to create the album was initiated. Secondly, the names of those called up reads like a ‘who's who’ of musicians from a very tight and productive community. Having observed Hannah’s moves over the last few years, it was of little surprise to read names such as Thomas Collison, Danny Wilson, Joe Bennett, Tony Poole, Henry Senior and others appear on the credits. Therefore commenting on a beefed up sound from the more acoustic folk sounding first album is a given, yet the players have helped skilfully curate a record where Hannah Rose Platt never relinquishes control. 

Perhaps underpinning the music of Hannah Rose Platt is a trait that will always be prevalent in her work. She is a born and gifted story telling songwriter with a natural knack of transferring literate thoughts into aesthetic songs. Whether working with fiction or reality, the results pose thoughts in the listener’s ear to ponder, seek or just enjoy. Like most singer-songwriters, Hannah will stride an extra mile to share the influences and drivers of her craft. Whether through filtered/unfiltered media or direct engagement via a live show, expect the legs of the eleven tracks on the new album to accomplish many miles of explanation before the curtain is pulled. Only then this will be likely due to the next batch of songs arriving. 

Another constant between albums is the name Sid Griffin. Back in 2015, his words were used to boost the profile, now four years later it is the voice that features in full duet mode. ‘I Will Tell You When’ is one of the album’s most recognisable tracks as multiple listens begin to shape where the album sits in your listening hierarchy. 

On the subject of recognition, ‘Chanel & Cigarettes’ was the first track to surface while an agonising wait went on to seek a suitable and viable route for the entire collection to find a recorded home. It became a song shared in the live shows, with a lyrical content that leaves little to the imagination in the repercussions of straying a touch too far. 

LETTER UNDER FLOORBOARDS (the title is lifted from a lyric that goes a long way to creating an imaginative source for many of the songs) possesses far more substance than allows for the top tracks to be easily anointed in the embryonic stages of an album’s life. Yet temptation to draw attention to a couple is cheekily yielded. ‘Brooklyn, New York’ is one of those touching immigration tales that springs from left field, while contemplating whether the heart is warmed or left considerably colder; over to the listener. ‘When Audrey Came to Call’ is another fascinating pursuit of committing thoughts to song and scores highly when you want to put the words on one side for a while and just absorb the strength of the tune. 

There are critical moments on the record where you can measure the magnitude of a seismic sound switch, courtesy of the players involved. Album opener ‘Illuminate’ and ‘Black Smoke’, found deep in the vaults of the second half, fall into this category. Whether you consider these musicians: good ole rockers, alt-country throwbacks or UK Americana pioneers, there was always likely to be moments when they rule the roost. Own moments maybe, but never own the whole process it must again be reiterated. 

Of course LETTERS UNDER FLOORBOARDS is best consumed with lyric booklet in hand, just to ensure both modes for passive engagement are activated. To take a step further, it is worth checking out some of Hannah’s spoken notes as found in interviews she has given, especially in Between the Lines podcast. Alternatively, it would be remiss of her not to maximise any opportunity to tour the hell out of this record and spread the word in the most primal way a singer-songwriter can. So attend these shows if you get the chance. Hopefully, the next time she plays Birmingham it won’t clash with a Kelly Willis or Dale Watson concert. These Texans don’t tour too regularly! 

Lavish praise heaped on PORTRAITS didn’t fall on barren ground. LETTERS UNDER FLOORBOARDS is all about positive evolution. Moving on the highway of opportunity without losing grip of what inspires an artist’s existence. This album has a prosperous life well past the humble release-hugging review. It may be an example of perseverance; it is certainly an example of excellence. All an artist can do is put their best out there. In the case of Hannah Rose Platt, it will resonate strongly and repay the faith any person has had in her ability to make music that matters. 

Album available here

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