Album review: REBECCA DOWNES – Back To The Start

REBECCA DOWNES – Back To The Start

Real2Reel Records [Release date 09.06.14]

Rebecca Downes is a good singer who makes the most of some concise arrangements. Initially she sounds like a MOR singer trying her hand at the blues before finally settling for a broader based outlook as a singer songwriter.

She got a good range and some reasonable material, but her interpretative skills don’t quite have the depth and feel necessary to make the material stick. She’s best on a couple of early booming bluesy hooks and later contrasting ballads, but ultimately ‘Back To The Start’ is an album that lacks direction and such it will disappoint listeners initially drawn in by her bluesy phrasing.

The album starts promisingly with the bluesy ‘Messed Up’, which has a strong melody and an infectious hook while the funky keyboard intro and percussive Latino feel of ‘When I’m Bad’ benefits from doubled up bv’s on the chorus, before a perfunctory finish.

There’s variety too on the cool arrangement of ‘Fever In The Night’, complete with some Andy Summers style guitar chords and gospel style bv’s that evoke the title. If there’s a problem it’s simply that she attacks each song in the same way, so making it difficult to emotionally engage the listener.

‘Round And Round’ is a welcome guitar driven shot to the vein with another catchy chorus, but it’s pleasant rather than memorable. The guitar solo sounds like a rescue job rather than an inspirational embellishment, while the mid-tempo ballad ‘Laughter From Her Room’ is immaculately played but lacks soul. It’s the kind of song better suited to someone like Julia Fordham than a singer with bluesy pretensions.

The rockabilly swing, steely guitar work and deft brush strokes of ‘Basement Of My Heart’ gives the album a notable lift. It’s everything the rest of the album isn’t, right down to the expansive lyrics. “Throw a Rope around the moon, steal the moonlight from the stars”.

But having lyrically reached for the stars, Rebecca takes a step back with an unremarkable slow blues ‘Walking With The Shadows’ on which she struggles for primacy with the guitarist.

The title track is more of a country outing which tries hard to engage us with a jangling guitar line and an uplifting hook. You suspect it’s the kind of material she’s happiest with, but good song that it is, it’s unlikely to appeal to the target audience for the album as a whole.

Ditto, the closing two tracks, of which the relationship song ‘Better For Knowing You’ is certainly heartfelt , but again doesn’t quite convey enough emotion, while the nuanced opening to ‘Little Girl’ leads to an ‘80’s sounding synth cushioned ballad, which might not be out of place on a late night Radio 2.

Ultimately ‘Back To The Start’ falls between the two goals of being a blues and singer-songwriter album. It has its moments but it’s an album in search of a consistent identity. ***

Review by Pete Feenstra

Pete Feenstra presents his Rock & Blues Show on Get Ready to ROCK! Radio every Tuesday at 19:00 GMT, and “The Pete Feenstra Feature” on Sundays at 19:00


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