Album review: TRACEY BROWNE – The Doctrine Of Song

TRACEY BROWNE - The Doctrine Of Song

[Release date 4.05.18]

You could be forgiven – listening in a ‘blindfold test’ to this sophomore release from Manchester-based singer songwriter Tracey Browne, for occasionally thinking, “blimey, where did these ‘lost’ Thea Gilmore songs come from?”

But dig a little deeper and it’s not just some of the song construction, and vocal phrasing that share similar DNA.  The Doctrine Of Song, and Browne’s well-worth-seeking-out debut Everyone Is Ordinary (2012), were both produced by Thea’s ‘other half’ Nigel Stonier (in this case, with his regular studio sidekick, Seadna McPhail).

And Tracey herself has been part of the Thea Gilmore ‘camp’ in recent years  – last spotted by GRTR!, by fellow scribe Alan Jones, when she was playing bass, keyboards and ‘sci-fi widget’ as part of a trio with Thea and Nig, on Thea’s autumn 2015 tour.  She also contributed backing vocals on Thea’s Don’t Stop Singing and John Wesley Harding albums.

But the cross pollination doesn’t end there, with both of Browne’s long players featuring TG ‘regular’ Liz Hanks on cello, and with Thea herself on some backing vocals.  But perhaps most significantly, Stonier’s influence extends to a significant number of co-writing credits, as well as playing acoustic, electric and bass guitars, and keyboards (and contributing to backing vocals).

Much underrated in his own right, you have to ask just how much of his own creativity is reflected here.  And when compared with Browne’s 2003 self-titled ‘self-release’ (not much more than a collection of one take demos), and the rootsy East by North West (2015) with fellow singer songwriter Raevennan Husbandes (which eschews any Thea Gilmore connections), you can only conclude his influence is significant.

But enough of forensic analysis, what we have here is a truly excellent album, from an artist deserving of wider recognition.  It opens with the somewhat untypically ‘heavy’ and brooding social commentary of ‘Compliance’ – a powerful number with Eastern undertones that wouldn’t be out of place in a Panic Room set!

Elsewhere the mood is more relaxed with the wonderfully restrained ‘Hit The Road Running’ combining some of the best attributes of Thea and Judie Tzuke’s writing, with some beautiful piano/cello accompaniment and an addictive chorus line.

‘Mucho Gusto”s lilting balladry is counterbalanced by the almost light hearted rock ‘n’ roll of ‘Preachy Keen’, and the softly rolling lament ‘My Father’s Love’ showcases the depth of Browne’s vocals, underpinned by Hank’s mournful cello and a some truly addictive choral harmony vocal lines.

‘As Far As The Heart Can See’ is a typically bouncy number with another catchy chorus, ‘It’s Nice To Be Nice’ an excellent, punky, acoustic driven number reminiscent of Thea’s more acerbic early years, and ‘Never You’ another gentle number that benefits from some more heavenly choral harmonies and Hanks sombre cello.

The set ends, all too soon, with the delicate piano led pairing of ‘Chapel Lane’ – a softly pulsing number with some exquisite cello interplay, and the almost hymnal ‘The Lauded Gun’ seals an accomplished release highly recommended to anyone with a soft spot for the female singer songwriter genre.

Credit must also go to Stonier, for (once again) bringing the best out of a very talented artist. ****1/2

Review by Pete Whalley

Live dates (Summer 2018)
01 Jun : The Big Comfy Bookshop, Coventry
09 Jun : Albion Brewery Bar, Northampton
10 Jun : Green Note, London
21 Jun : Acoustic Amnesty – Salford
22 Jul : Milton Keynes International Festival
22 Jul : The Geese and Fountain , Grantham
09 Aug : Cafelito for Leaf Promotions, Stockport

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