(3 / 5)
Hot on the heels of her 2016 debut album ‘A Twist of Blue’, London jazz artist Fiona Ross’ has released a new double-album ‘Just Me (and Sometimes Someone Else)’ which maintains the class and quality of her opening gambit last year.
From full-band Latin Jazz to stripped-back acoustic tracks, ‘Just Me (and Sometimes Someone Else)’ arrives with a mastery and skill that comes from Fiona’s years of training and life experience. Having worked as a musical director, session musician, composer, choreographer, director, dancer, actor and model, there has rarely been a day when Fiona’s life hasn’t been centred on music.
As the Head of British Academy of New Music for almost nine years, Fiona was responsible for the training of some of Britain’s biggest music stars, including Ed Sheeran, Rita Ora and Jess Glynne. Fiona said, “Training musicians who truly have that desire, talent, passion and, most importantly, the right attitude is not hard. Finding them is. Ed, Rita and Jess all clearly had those attributes and there was no doubt they would find success. I am very pleased to have had a tiny role in that, but you can’t teach that that undefinable thing that they all have – that’s all their own.”
Now, though, it’s Fiona’s time to put her own music in the spotlight. “I had my first son when I was 16, got married, then divorced,” says Fiona. “I was a single parent raising two boys, working fifteen-hours a day to earn enough money to support us all. Now that my boys have grown-up I’ve been able to focus on my music properly.”
Enrolled in dance, drama and singing lessons from the age of two, Fiona has played piano from the age of six. By the time she was eight-years-old she was starring in West End musicals such as Annie. At the age of fourteen Fiona lied about her age to talk her way into gigging at weekends in jazz clubs throughout London. Her parents were not impressed!
‘Just Me (and Sometimes Someone Else)’ is a candid insight into Fiona’s heart and soul, and an illumination of her creative process. She has held on to many of these songs for a long time. Written, arranged and produced by Fiona, the album was mixed by Nate Williams and mastered by Nick Watson (The Libertines, Seal, Alison Moyet).
UK soul star Ola Onabule is a fan: “This double album by Fiona Ross is an absolute joy to immerse oneself in. There is an incisive honesty and humanity in the detail that takes each song’s message straight to your heart.”
Disc one is an all acoustic affair, and opens with ‘27 Reasons’. In a “very drunken stupor”, Fiona wrote a list of reasons why she shouldn’t pursue a guy she liked, and it turned out there was 27 reasons. She mentioned it to a friend at work the next day and they said ‘that’s a great name for a song’. This is the result.
‘Let Me Go’ is a song most of us can associate with, if we have had a boss at work who is a control freak. Fiona wrote this song about her frustrations at a previous job – where her boss was a control freak and deep down, insecure about his own abilities. Fiona yearned to be given the freedom to do her job and he wouldn’t let her. When she realised it was affecting her enough to write a song about it, she quit!
‘Reflection’ is a memorable track among the 11 on the first CD. Inspired by an incident where Fiona saw a woman teaching her small child to throw stones at pigeons, and she went up to her to speak to her about it, but the mother “just didn’t get it”. This song is about Fiona’s frustrations with people moaning about the state of the world but not being willing to actually stand up and do something about it. “If we actually took a step back and reflected, we could all be better people.” Amen to that.
The second disc here showcases Fiona and her band on nine tracks, starting with a full band version of the stripped down acoustic treatment on the first CD of ‘27 Reasons’. Fiona gets a wee bit personal on ‘You’re A Fool’: “Actually about my ex-husband, who was a fool. Ha! But in fairness, I was 15 when I met him. So, really I guess it’s about when you are young and in love and you do anything to make it work because you don’t know any better. But when you look back on it, you realise you shouldn’t have made quite so many compromises.” ‘My Dignity’ continues the theme of being a bit daft when it comes to matters of the heart. An “angry break-up song about what an idiot I was in a relationship, and that I made a fool of myself and I should have known better.” I think we all know that feeling, eh?
A credible album from a singer with a fine instrument which she more than knows how to use, and a decent songwriter to boot. Some of the material is a much tighter fit as a vehicle for her vocal than others, but plenty of solid stuff here to choose from on the two discs.
By Sally Fox
(2 / 5) ‘OK Zone’
(3 / 5) ‘Decent Zone’
(4 / 5) ‘Super Zone’
(5 / 5) ‘Awesome Zone’