Quick Plays: The Val,Juruda,Chris While & Julie Matthews,Carrie Rodriguez,Annabelle Chvostek

The Val - Back

The Val – Back

The Val, named after vocalist Gabrielle de Val, are a truly European band.  De Val herself, is German, but writes in English (although I wonder whether lyrics that refer to Humpty Dumpty and petticoats has perhaps lost something in the translation), while the rest of the band are Spanish and the collective are based in Madrid.

The band’s AOR melodic rock debut album has been out for over 12 months now in Europe and has found popularity in both Spain and Germany, and while it’s an easy, and pleasant listen, I suspect it may be considered a little too saccharine for mainstream UK or American rock audiences.

From the off there’s a clear modus operandi – piano or acoustic intros that transcend into ‘big hair’ AOR style rock ballads.  It’s a formula that’s served many very well and a genre I’ve got something of a soft spot for.  And certainly de Val can more than hold her own in the vocal department.  But the problem is that it’s all a bit clichéd – the opener A Kiss In A  Dragon Night bears more than a passing resemblance to Heart’s Alone and the set never really deviates far from that template.

Which is fine, but there’s a cloying veneer of Eurovision, and sadly it’s one that only serves to emphasises the only missing component – balls.  It’s a bit like comparing Marvel Comic superheroes with the Power Rangers.  But that said, if I heard this on Spanish radio while sunning myself on the Costa del Sol while enjoying a San Miguel, I’d be quietly impressed.  ***

Juruda Music – Whispers Of Doom

A rather Teutonic keyboard sound gives the second album from Dutch pop rockers Juruda Music a rather 1980′s synth feel in the much the same manner as, say Depeche Mode.  In contrast to Dave Gahan, Juruda Music have the lush, sensual vocals of Juruda that culminate in a sound that combines the darker, moodier elements of the likes of early Eurythmics, Blondie (In Store For Him has strong elements of both) and Berlin.

With over 20 years in the business, it’s a tight set that has an almost ‘experimental’ feel at times with some excellent guitar and keyboard work.  But for large parts it’s an album that washes around you without ever really grabbing you firmly by the private parts.  It could be that it’s a grower, but to my mind there’s an absence of deep enough hooks, or even a particularly stand out track, to make a lasting impact.  ***

Chris While & Julie Matthews

Chris While and Julie Matthews – Infinite Sky

New names to me, but not to those with a knowledge of the folk scene, Chris While and Julie Matthews paths first crossed in the Albion Band in the early 1990s, with a side project Women of Albion marking their first excursion as a due on 1997.

Since then, they’ve won Best Duo at the 2009 BBC Folk awards and been nominated nine times altogether since 2001.  Infinite Sky is their 8th studio album and what surprised me was just how close it sails to the mainstream.

Excellent vocalists and musicians, the album is steeped in the classic late sixties / early seventies sub rock folk culture that spawned the likes Simon & Garfunkel, Carole King and James Taylor, and even the Wilson sisters (when Ann Isn’t giving it ‘loads’).  OK, it might not be destined to break any record sales, but it’s a classy album of the sort that the likes of The Pierces will be releasing 20 years hence.  ***1/2

Annabelle Chvostek – Rise

One time Wailin’ Jenny singer songwriter Annabelle Chvostek’s latest folk / roots offering is packed with social commentary as evidenced by numbers like G20 and a cover of Peter Tosh’s Equal Rights.  But it also comes ‘fully loaded’ with some intelligent songwriting and great playing.

Yes, this is ‘music for the mind’ in the same way as much of Paul Simon’s post Garfunkel output; exploring planetary social justice through musical activism.  If that sounds a bit ‘heavy’, then relax, Rise works on a number of levels – lyrically, and as a soothing brew of Chvostek’s mandolin, fiddle and sultry vocals.

Quirky, intriguing, and enticing.  ***1/2

Carrie Rodriguez – Give Me All You Got

Carrie Rodriguez’s fifth solo album is largely a country affair.  But when the Texan fiddler, singer and songwriter strays into more mainstream territory, as she does on the infectious Devil In Mind, and Lake Harriet, you can see the potential for attracting a wider audience.
Steeped in American and recorded ‘live’ in the studio with her band, it’s Carrie’s sweet and sexy Southern drawl, combined with her fiddle playing that gives her the potential for crossover.  But for the most part Give Me All You’ve Got is going to appeal to country fans.  ***

Reviews by Pete Whalley






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