Belle Cannon – Rewind (CD -Review)
1. That Thing You Do 2. Cornerstone 3. My Better Years 4. Rewind 5. Reel Me In
6. Woman’s Right 7. Party 8. Colour Me 9. Working Man 10. Game On
11. I Wanna Be The Woman 12. Between Now and Whenever
Label – Bellejar Records (P) Bellejar Publishing © Belle Cannon Music Ltd
UPC – 0609722913171
Digital Release – 4 July 2011
REWIND is the debut release by this Anglo Irish American country singer based in London who was born into a prolific Irish American musical family from Galway. The album cover is a little deceiving, if you didn’t know one might assume it was by a glamorous aspiring classical-pop crossover artist. So instead of hearing perhaps Pachelbel’s Canon we get to hear 12 tracks of mostly original songs, ten of which all flowed from the pen of the innovative Belle Cannon. The genre was woven into her soul growing up listening to the likes of Dolly Parton, Kris Kristofferson and Hank Williams whilst influenced by names such as Adele, Stevie Nicks, and Alison Krauss.
This musical country cocktail blend crosses the margins of traditional country, honky-tonk, contemporary pop/rock with elements of bluegrass. It was recorded in Nashville back in August 2010 for the Independent label BelleJar Records who enlisted a bevy of top music row players including Brent Mason (guitar), Gordon Moat (piano), Larry Franklyn (fiddle) and Bryan Sutton (guitar).
The edgy, immediate and fast paced opening track ‘That Thing You Do’ was the first single to be released in March 2011. Left reeling after a sudden break-up its character struggles to come to terms with the situation and questions how to move on – “Your like a dream I keep reliving, like a memory always repeating” sings Belle. With its scintillating electric guitar and catchy hooks the album gets off to a terrific start.
The gently, mid-paced ‘Cornerstone’ has within its structure some Spanish guitar and mandolin flavours. As the films rolls slowly by on life’s landscape more grit is added with the addition of tight piano and electric guitar riffs with steadfast rhythms. With a heartfelt plea to a lover, the singer is ready to commit and put down foundations: “I’ll put my faith in you / I’ll give to you my heart, if you ask me too”
The bluegrass ballad ‘My Better Years’ was originally written by protest and folksinger Hazel Dickens in 1973, who I note, sadly died aged about 85 in May of this year. As a child she endured hardships and went onto become a pioneer who sang of the downtrodden. Working with mountain music artist Alice Gerrard they recorded this on the album HAZEL & ALICE offering a unique sound of a female duet singing bluegrass which drew the attention of a young Emmylou Harris. In later years Dickens was active within the Washington, DC folk/bluegrass community. She performed this with the popular Johnson Mountain Boys who cut this on their album BLUE DIAMOND in 1993 (Youtube video). This insightful cover by Cannon demonstrates her knowledge of the genres tradition. Her rendition suits her subtle and restrained vocal perfectly complemented by delicate fiddle, dobro, mandolin and tasteful harmony on an aching number were loves embers have all turned to ash many moons ago and there’s no turning back.
‘Rewind’ has a feel an early Mary Chapin Carpenter composition. With a longing to a love that regretfully slipped away the excellent groove is however very pleasing to the ear bringing forth a warm and honest sentiment. Reaching out to an absent lover the author sings out: “If I would only rewind, the hands of time that slip by, I would make you take back your goodbye”
Arranged by Cannon ‘Reel Me In’ when it pops out of the speakers demands attention on this fiddle and steel laden track which is a fabulous feel good country toe-tapper. It should get folks grabbing their partners and hitting the dance floors pronto – wonderful stuff!
On the mid-tempo ‘Woman’s Right’ Belle whose vocal slightly wavers wears the assertive female badge but is clearly focused when advising men that they should heed the warnings to stand aside and allow her the space to decide. Evidently it’s: “A mystery to be defined, the answers always justified“!
The fast paced and danceable ‘Party’, the album’s second single is infectious ear-candy and hit the top spot on the Hotdisc British & Irish chart and was in the top 5 on the Hotdisc Top 40. The band cut a mighty fine lick with fiddle, steel, electric guitar each in turn allowed to take centre stage as Belle sharpens her honky-tonk chops with much aplomb.
‘Colour Me’ is not a paint-by-numbers track as Cannon brushes on her own lyrics creating a swampy soulful canvas where she would jump over Mars and Neptune to be beside her man.
With sweeping steel, guitar and piano riffs “Working Man” makes for a fun, super country hoe-down. Belle using the melody of John Denver’s #1 hit “Thank God I’m a Country Boy” puts new words to it paying homage to the hard working men-folk: “He builds to the left and he builds it to the right, When the money comes in he gives it all to his wife, And that’s his secret for a happy life, Say hello to the working man”
‘Game On’ is a raucous rocky affair as its character comes out fighting after seeing through all the deceitfulness. By round four he’s on the floor and his head is spinning and she senses victory.
One of the outside cuts, the fiddle and steel drenched ‘I Wanna Be The Woman’ (written by Helen Rae Cooper & Pam & Keith Read) is a deliciously melodic and joyous number and something you could imagine being a hit in the early 90’s on the country charts. Its female protagonist is ready to commit and eager for the relationship to blossom as she sings in the chorus: “I wanna be the woman, You come home to at night, I wanna be the woman, To be taken in your arms, And held real tight”
On the delicate, softly break-up ballad and closer ‘Between Now and Whenever’ Belle’s vocals are in touch with the mood as vacant stares and empty promises lead to the inevitable as reality sets in.
How where’s the repeat or should I say REWIND button – This album gets better with each play!