Album review: CHANTEL McGREGOR – Shed Sessions Volume One & Two

CHANTEL McGREGOR - Shed Sessions Volume One [Release date 12.07.21]

Reasons To Be Cheerful Part 3.  In Chantel McGregor’s case, parts 1 and 2 aka Shed Sessions.  Gather together the fish tank, an acoustic guitar and a tame keyboard player (Jamie Brooks) and you have a ready made concert for lockdown streaming.  McGregor’s never missed a trick or two in terms of self-promotion and tirelessly works social media even if promoting beer, a hamster or her cats.

The two volumes are a nice keepsake of the past twelve months when Chantel has streamed her music every week and split nicely between acoustic and acoustic/electric. Volume One consists of cover versions reflecting fan requests including Neil Young’s ‘Needle And The Damage Done’ and ‘Harvest Moon’ and her own influences including Stevie Nicks (‘Gold Dust Woman’ and ‘Landslide’) and James Taylor.

Without all the preamble and sometimes irritating banter – (or one of the more appealing aspects of the original streams if that’s your bag) – we can just focus on the music.  Re-recorded at home with minimal technical interjection it sounds great.  *****

Volume Two turns up the heat a little bit by adding electric guitar and keyboard giving stripped back versions of her own material including the standouts (‘Walk On Land’ and ‘April’ but no ‘Anaesthesize’ or ‘Screams Everlasting’) and tunes by Tori Amos (‘Winter’) and Steven Wilson (‘Drive Home’, ‘The Raven That Refused To Sing’).  ****1/2

What both volumes reveal is a talented guitarist, yes, but a lovely voice too.  When I reviewed Chantel’s debut album, in 2011, I opined “There is fragility in her songwriting and in her vocal style, which is highly appealing – this may have something to do with her young age but it bodes well also for the future.”

I must admit I wasn’t that impressed with Chantel’s live album – ‘Bury’d Alive’ – feeling that it didn’t represent the excellent show we saw at Giants Of Rock in January 2018 possibly due to the mix quality.

These two albums are, though, a great addition to McGregor’s slightly stop-start album output over the years and will be readily enjoyed by her fanbase.  They remind me of the sort of thing Judie Tzuke has been doing in recent years: home spun, honest, quietly outstanding .

Review by David Randall

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