(5 / 5)
A tough one for me, or any critic/reviewer/journalist who is reviewing a release from an artist they know personally, they respect, they admire and really dig their musical output thus far. If you love it, will it come across as verbose and gushing, as though you are doing a pal a favour? If you do not like it, then what? Upset a friend? What to do………….
A PR mate sent me a batch of stuff about six years ago, and among the albums he pitched me was one that literally leaped out of the speakers, and caressed my lug holes. The voice was so distinct, the songs infectious and cheery. The whole thing put me in a bloody great mood. I still recall one song, “Wrench”, which really grabbed me. We met up for an interview and photo shoot soon after, and then again when she opened for Judy Collins in a Cathedral. Keeping in touch on-line ever since.
The artist was/is Lisbee Stainton. She’s one of ours; a 29-year-old, red-headed, multi-instrumentalist, singer songwriter originally from Hampshire, who has trodden her own path and released four pretty impressive albums across an 11-year recording career. “Firefly” in 2006, “Girl On An Unmade Bed” in 2010, “Go” – the one where I first discovered Lisbee’s talents – in 2011, and her last release, “Word Games” in 2014.
Spotted by folk superstar Seth Lakeman and invited to join his band and tour extensively with him, singing and playing the banjo, harmonium, guitar and harmonica. Seth featured on Lisbee’s last album and she has played on one of his. But Miss Lisbee is not a folk artist. She is an artist who fits perfectly into the folk scene, but she has a modern outlook and vibe to everything she turns her hand to. At the same time, she’s more than respectful to the history of trad’ folk music on which her music is built upon. A very big history buff is our Lisbee, and a former ‘walking tour guide’ in London.
But her voice is contemporary and her song writing really crafted. Her stuff fits right in to a Radio 2 playlist for mainstream daytime plays, as well as spins on the folk show in its measly one hour slot on a Wednesday night, with Mark Radcliffe hosting. There is nothing self-indulgent about her songs, even if many are personal to her own life.
Hers is a pure tone, and it projects right to the back of the room. She has power and she has range. But if you hear Lisbee’s voice, you instantly know it is her. I cannot really compare her to another singer, but there’s perhaps a little resemblance to the fabulous Judie Tzuke at times. Her quirkiness and fun side leads me to think of Kate Bush, and that pure quality of voice; Annie Haslam and Renaissance. But Lisbee is most definitely just being Lisbee.
She has worked with producers in the past, but on this one, took charge herself, working alongside engineer and co-producer Liam Ross at the studio in Wales. Her fifth album, recorded and mixed during a two year period from 2014, the project was intended as an EP while she worked on her next full album, but as she wrote the songs and recorded demos, her muse had other ideas; and she realised she was on to something special. 13 songs; very strong material, Lisbee wrote eight of the 11 songs, and co-wrote three with Eleanor McEvoy and two with Charlie Dore.
Probably her strongest song writing to date (she’s currently in Nashville writing with some top guys) and the sound of an assured, confident, vibrant artist at the top of her game. Ironic then; when you know that she suffered from really terrible stage fright and severe anxiety for a good while. Nothing to be anxious about here. For me, this has got “BBC Folk Award” all over it for next year, unless they think it is not folkie enough perhaps?
The opener “Burn Out” was written as a bit of a pep talk to herself, as an “infuriating perfectionist and control freak” with “unreasonable expectations of my own productivity”. “Leaving” tells of her love-hate relationship with London. “Vodka and& Tonic” written with Eleanor McEvoy, involved copious fluid research in a Dublin bar and a meeting with the Grey Goose, to make the song believable! “Reason” is the single, a great hook and feel-good vibe to it.
There are perhaps shades of a Gothic feel to some parts of the album, plus a classical- Prog’ sensibility, some Celt’ flavours and an overall soulfulness from her vocal. Her crystal clear diction means you hear every word, every nuance. I watched a singer on TV at the weekend, and I could not decipher one solitary word of the song she sang. Not one. There is also an intimacy and a slight vulnerability within Lisbee’s singing style and tone; a born story teller, she has that gift to draw you in.
For “Then Up”, she recruited musicians she had worked with before on the folk scene; Cormac Byrne on percussion and Jack Rutter on guitar, who both played in Seth Lakeman’s band with her. Lisbee’s long-term bassist Peter Randall took time out from touring with superstar Adele, to play on the record. Lisbee’s co-writers, Irish star Eleanor McEvoy played fiddle, Hammond organ, piano and sang backing vocals, and Charlie Dore played piano and sang backing vocals too. Lisbee played her treasured tailor-made 8-string guitar, nylon string guitar, electric guitar, banjo, ebow, harmonium, piano and synth. Oh, and she sang a bit too! And some….
By Simon Redley
(2 / 5) ‘OK Zone’
(3 / 5) ‘Decent Zone’
(4 / 5) ‘Super Zone’
(5 / 5) ‘Awesome Zone’