Wednesday, 15 July 2015

Megan Henwood - Head, Heart, Hand : Dharma Records

Spiralling out of left field with startling effect is the new record from English singer-songwriter Megan Henwood. HEAD, HEART, HAND is the title of this second album from Megan, who is now beginning to fulfil the promise of the 2009 BBC Radio 2 Young Folk Award which was bestowed upon her and brother, Joe. It is also an appropriate strapline for a performer of Megan’s nature and reveals an artist prepared to stretch out from convention in striking a serious chord for originality. An album of many redeeming features, its strongest selling point is an impulsive knack of grabbing your attention, certainly not a bad trait to incorporate into an album.

Musically, this record is vibrant and keeps you on your toes for its entire duration, whether through mid-song tempo switches or superior moments of orchestral splendour.  It is also underpinned by Megan’s quintessentially English vocals which float between a whispering softness to a more profound starkness. Thematically, it ranges from the abstract to the observational often calling at many personal points in between. The latter is best identified in the closing track ‘Painkiller’ with its personal inspiration and the lingering words of the album title reverberating within the lyrical content.

Photo by Elly Lucas
Love/Loathe’ is the ideal lead off track to both open and currently promote the album. Like so many tracks that follow, it contains a wonderful tempo change with a memorable mid-song segment echoing the line ‘my heart is a pendulum’ to tie in succinctly with the track’s split title. Other songs which have a diverse element to their structure include the slightly dark ‘Our Little Secret’ and ‘These Walls’. ‘Puppet and the Songbird’ sees Megan at her most abstract lyrically, but as a tune, it unravels as a bouncy number illuminated by a relentless violin contribution.

Megan penned eleven of the twelve tracks with the exception being a beautiful instrument-free version of the traditional ‘Rose Red’ with a glorious harmony accompaniment from Jackie Oates and Tom Excell. In contrast, ‘No Good No Fun’ with its indie pop sentiment adds to the album’s diversity and shows that folk convention is a strong factor, but not necessarily a constricting one.

Alongside the opening number, ‘Chemicals’ makes a valid case for being among the strongest tracks and gets inside your head in a pleasing way straight from the early bars. This also features the strength of Megan’s vocal contribution which is one of the album’s most redeeming qualities. From a musical perspective the second track ‘Grateful Ghost’ begins in a stripped mode of simplicity before evolving into a great feast of sound. ‘Garden’ stakes a claim as the record’s most beautiful track and is a glorious descriptive piece of writing highlighting a writer in full flow. The final two tracks ‘Fall and Fade’ and ‘Lead Balloon’ both reside within the groove of the record with the latter being amongst the softer offerings.

HEAD, HEART, HAND  is a truly worthwhile record getting to know and reaches out to music fans without frontiers. Megan Henwood deserves every inch of anticipated column praise for this album which is a body of work rich in independence and packing a direct punch right from the first listen. 

No comments: