Website [Release date 03.04.20]
The world needs beauty and this can mean many different things to different people. To some it is a glorious vista, to others the innocent laugh of a small child, to others still it is the sight of a single flower or a majestic beast in its natural habitat.
What people find beautiful in songs and melodies is equally open to personal choice but the absolute exquisiteness of this new album by Amy Birks will be something that will bring that overwhelming and breathtaking rush of emotion to any lover of good music who hears it.
Made to be listened to whilst strolling through Spring woods alive with carpets of bluebells, ‘All That I Am And All That I Was’ is a soothing balm that doesn’t just wash over you but draws you into Birks’ world as it speaks to heart, mind and soul.
There is a brittleness in the beauty of opener ‘Jamaica Inn’, its lush composition and multilayered vocals complementing but never overwhelming the songs building story, giving it a huge amount of character and depth.
Not a single note, phrase or even word wasted or in the wrong place, the voice constantly tender and affecting as each new track unfolds, the gentle flows and ebbs like a gentle kiss of the sun warming your face. As the album unfolds, each track is a delight as the wistful ‘Unlike the Heart’ and the atmospheric ‘More’ roll and seep into the corners of your soul like early morning mists on the shore.
More, pastoral, images are immediately conjured in ‘Not Every Night’ as it sweeps you back to gentler and simpler times with a plaintive vocal performance, enhanced by the sublimely delicate piano and woodwind as it proves the perfect accompaniment to a mind wandering through the glories of the English countryside. The sheer incandescent quality of the piano alone is enough to break your heart, sounding, as it does, like the most heavenly thing you have ever heard.
With sweeping elegance and a passion that speaks of the desperation of trying to break away from a destructive relationship, ‘With All That I Am’ is as bittersweet as it comes, juxtaposing the surefooted instrumentation with the fragility of the wounded heart.
Elsewhere, ‘Say Something’ waltzes and ‘Catherine’ takes us even further back, its glorious strings bringing drama to the story of Catherine of Aragon and touching the ermine robes of the Tudors. The album in no rush to break the spell by rushing from one mood to another, ‘All the Fault of Lady Anne’ continues walking those bygone paths and feels like a sonnet transported and transposed by Jane Austen, as delicate and handsome as the wings of a butterfly.
There is a real weight in the playing of the timeless and warming chimes of ‘Road To Gordes’, the perfect symbiosis of words and music coming together in a poetic storybook full of pastel shades and muted colour as your spirit finds succor and encouragement.
Adding his own magic touch, Steve Hackett guests on the flamenco flavoured ‘I Wish’, his playing adding orange flames of passion into the mix, younger brother John having provided the flute for the rest of the album. Ending on a heavenly note, ‘Keeps You Guessing’ again brings together beauty and urgency, the lines ‘But we have thoughts to hold, To treasure until the next time’ capturing both the longing and desire of the song and also that ache to reconnect with the music once again as the last notes fade.
Adding the icing to the cake is the pristine production by Birks, the artist not only understanding her strengths and vision but also that it is the whole that matters, avoiding the temptation of grandstanding to the detriment of the finished product. ‘All That I Am and All That I Was’ is a major achievement, breaking down walls between what we perceive and what beauty actually is, from icy blues to the most vibrant of reds. You’ll fall in love with this album and this passion may just last your lifetime. *****
Review by Paul Monkhouse
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