Fiona Bevan’s debut album, Talk to Strangers, more than lives up to the promise of its first single. The British singer-songwriter’s quirky soul-pop style falls somewhere between Sheila Nicholls, Joanna Newsom and Corinne Bailey Rae, but these are tenuous reference points at best. Fiona is really carving a niche of her own here.
Fiona’s rich lilt and jaunty instrumentation are particularly charming on “Rebel Without a Cause,” “Slo Mo Tiger Glo” and the lovely “Us and the Darkness.”
The standout track “The Machine” dives into murkier, funkier waters.
Other highlights are Fiona’s exquisite, multi-faceted vocal on “Monsoon Sundance,” the enchanting, buoyant “Pirates and Diamonds” and the simpler beauty of “Forwards.”
I expect Fiona Bevan’s Talk to Strangers to make it on my best of the year list for 2014.
Queen Esther‘s new album, The Other Side, is unlike anything else you’ve heard in recent years…or possibly ever. Queen Esther calls it her “Black Americana album,” often setting her soulful vocals atop classic country-inspired Americana melodies replete with rustic strings.
The album’s first single “Oh, Sun” and especially the track “I’ve Come Undone Again” are prime examples of Queen Esther’s signature “Black Americana” sound. An alternative take of the latter song is included as a bonus track.
Queen Esther’s cover of “My Big Iron Skillet” is by far my favorite track. A bluesy, classic country contemporary of Loretta Lynn’s “Don’t Come Home a Drinkin’ (With Lovin’ on Your Mind),” the Wanda Jackson song is the perfect fit for Queen Esther’s voice and musical style.
The album also features two covers of the Steve Miller Band’s “Jet Airliner” – my favorite being the funkier bonus track version.
The beautiful finale “I Feel Like Going Home” is another standout track. As I said when Queen Esther first released the song two years ago, hers is the most moving cover of the song I’ve heard since the Inner Voices choir performed it on My So-Called Life twenty years ago.