Debra Andrew – Child Of The Universe
by Christian Lamitschka for Country Music News International Magazine & Radio Show
1 Angel Love
2 Home to You
3 Till I See You Again
5 I Will Try
6 Child of the Universe
7 No Mystery
8 Where Would I Be Without You
10 In My Dreams
11 Let Your Light Shine
12 You’ve Got a Friend
14 Lord Bless Me
Label –Self-release Debra Andrew Music © Debra Andrew-Oliver
Release Date – 19 November 2010
Time – 1:03:51
Previous to this recording the Southport born and Surrey based artist had a background as songwriter, collaborating with different producers and writers when signed for 5-years to Native Songs/ Universal Music UK. Her early career was composing songs for children’s TV and artists in the commercial pop/dance field such as Kym Marsh of the band Hear’Say. Her song ‘Come On Over’ co-written by Debra Andrew made the Top 10 on the UK Singles Chart in February 2001. As a vocalist and writer she helped to compose and lent her voice to the electro /dance and house track ‘Blue Water’ by duo Black Rock, which reached #36.
In 2006 she left the exciting and hectic pop scene behind to make family her priority and as someone who had practiced yoga she turned to healing therapy studies. Having embarked on a spiritual path she returned to music once again with a desire to create something that would satisfy the soul. On her website it states she “returned to her acoustic, folk and country roots”. Her early experiences were with her musical family who played and sang. Her parents ran folk clubs across Merseyside and Lancashire and as a teenager she would join them on stage to sing. Tired of the commercial sound it was listening to The Dixie Chicks ‘Wide Open Spaces’, on route to Liverpool which flicked a switch when it’s lyrics resonated: “Room to make her big mistakes / She needs new faces / She knows the high stakes. For Andrew she too wanted to take a risk, be prepared to make mistakes before hitting the target and be true to herself.
The writing for this project began in early 2008. Her pianist husband David Oliver had been fighting cancer, and was due to join her in the studio to record. He was a former director of music at St Mary and St Nicholas Parish Church, Leatherhead, and sadly died, aged 51, in January 2009. Debra was able to capture his piano performances between cycles of chemotherapy and a few months before his passing. The songs are written both before and after his death and reflect on the feelings she was about to endure.
Describing Andrew’s voice, it is velvety and makes a heart melt with close similarities to Olivia Newton John and the soft and soulful sound of Lisa Stansfield who she cites as a major influence and with whom in 2001 she was a backing singer on her tour of Italy.
The recordings began in August 2009 at Sphere Studios in London assisted by engineer Joshua Blair. The 14 tracks written by Andrew on CHILD OF THE UNIVERSE are mostly of a spiritual nature. They focus on a love left behind though at times the passionate lyrical content can be a little vague and with her deep faith it could refer to the almighty, which is confirmed on the album closer. They look inwardly leaving the soul bare, the content is sometimes biographical, observational, and personal endeavours felt on her path.
The dreamy soft/pop number ‘Angel Love’ opens the record, Andrew’s vocal is mesmerizing and comforting over an electronic keyboard and a lavish string backdrop. Her friend Geoff Lawson helped with the string arrangements joined by the Brandenburg Sinfonia with Bob Porter, their artistic director conducting. These orchestral sounds are apparent on 6 offerings.
Gentle and classy acoustic pickings (Mike Eaves) and delicate drums from freelance musician and composer Paul Tarry feature on ‘Home To You’. It has a lovely lightness, Andrew’s voice is soft and sensuous and with the familiar growl of a Hammond organ she searches for a truth as she sings out: Tell me what you’re thinking and how you feel / I need to know / tell me if this love is real
The acoustic arrangement on ‘Till I See You Again’ brought to mind Clapton’s ‘Tears in Heaven’. Here Andrew has dried her eyes and said her goodbyes with the sunrise. She will carry the picture in a frame, talk with friends of good times and write messages to a lover in the moonlight.
‘Footprints’ is inspired by the well-known poem about having faith in God. Wondering through an insecure wilderness she is helped by acts of kindness, but despite difficult times “the footprints in the sand” remind her she will never be alone.
The healing ‘I Will Try’ has a solo piano accompaniment; the vocal is ethereal and captures an intimacy.
The stand out title cut and first single ‘Child of the Universe’ is a track when first heard had me waiting anxiously by the speaker to discover who the artist was. It opens with gentle piano licks, and together with the lyrics immediately draws you in and sinks hooks into your heart. Bass guitar (Peter Brent) then enters the framework on the first chorus and it gradually unfolds with angelic voices soaring over the string section. Andrew’s vocal always the focus, offers a sweet and honest sentiment as she questions: What would anybody care for this child of this universe.
The tempo picks up on the soulful ‘No Mystery’, with Debra’s vocal overdubs it’s clearly a nod to a Stansfield composition. ‘Where Would I Be Without You’ has bluesy flavourings and here Andrew pushes herself more vocally. The slow paced acoustic ‘Family’ has some delightful percussion touches (Shan Chana) and continues on the folk laden shuffle ‘In My Dreams’.
The James Taylor cover ‘You’ve Got A Friend’, a favourite of Andrew and her late husband fits the theme weaving through this 64-minute collection. Sadly by this time the listener’s ear is waning with similar song formats and its “love shining down from a distance star” approach.
It ends with ‘Lord Bless Me’ a big orchestral piece complete plus a church choir, its singers probably drawn from the Leatherhead area. It’s a prayer dispatched beyond the blue horizon.
Adverts for the first single and album have appeared in the country media circles. So is it Country with a capital “C”? Devoid of instrumentation that one associates with the genre, the answer is no. Is it Classy, Christian and Comforting? – Most certainly so. These are the tags that fit best.