Album Review | Our Places – Bel Blue
Album | Our Places
Artist | Bel Blue
Label | Dog Rose Records
Singer/songwriter Bel Blue was born & raised in Northern Ireland and now lives in Wales. Surprisingly, she is relatively new to performing and ‘Our Places’ is her debut album – a fact which is remarkable when you consider the maturity and sheer artistry of her songwriting on this record. She says the collection is a reflection of her musical influences, from her love of laments to a fondness for country ballads, describing it as a ‘tender fusion of folk & country, with time and place weaved into songs’.
It was inspired by a concept she had of recording songs on location where they were written, and after meeting musician & record producer Kevs Ford at the Wyrd and Wonderful festival in the Swansea Valley last Autumn and telling him her idea, the project began to come to life. Bel says “we took two microphones, a little foam and a laptop, and recorded Our Places Live by the River Ely, where it was written. Initially we agreed to record an EP but thankfully Our Places developed into an album”.
Bel has been a guest on my Radio Cardiff show a couple of times in recent years – performing live acoustically, so I knew she possessed a voice of rare quality and a talent for crafting a song but I was completely taken aback when I played the album for the first time. Each one of the 9 songs has a resonance and quality that is captivating, and the production by Kevs Ford is excellent.
The opening track ‘Longing’s Gone’ raised the hair on the back of my neck – in fact it put me in mind of Sandy Denny’s later solo work – imbued with a simplicity and honesty that draws the listener in and demands undivided attention.
There is both a studio version and a outside ‘live’ recording of the title track ‘Our Places’. both of which are enhanced by the sound of birdsong recorded at Grangemoor on the banks of the River Ely in Cardiff where Bel wrote it. Acclaimed violinist Jamie Nemeth guests on the studio version. The fusion of music and lyrics have a poetic, almost hypnotic effect.
‘In It’s Time’ is a standout track which touches on fantasies, daydreams and the nature of time. It’s one of the most Americana-tinged song on the album thanks to Kevs Ford’s understated but masterful tremolo electric guitar playing.
‘Waterfall’ is a beautiful love song with Bel’s voice double-tracked on the vocals giving it an ethereal quality; while ‘The Wild Dog Rose’ (my personal favourite) gives the talented ensemble of musicians the opportunity to shine – especially the harmonium playing of the multi-talented Mr Ford.
Bel wrote ‘River of Dreams’ at Cenarth Falls, on the River Teifi – a place steeped in myth and legend, and the song conveys a floating dream-state sensibility. Quite beautiful. Kevs Ford plays both classical and steel string guitar on the track. We’re back in Americana territory again with ‘Somewhere’ written in Mid Wales under an old railway bridge. ‘Nant Ddu’ features Ben Steer on folk guitar and Jamie Nemith’s haunting violin, while the harmonium returns for the beautifully mournful lament ‘Along The Way’ – this time played by Bel herself.
The album closes with the ‘live’ version of ‘Our Places’ and an alternate radio edit of ‘In Our Time’.
Bel wrote and arranged all the songs, and played guitar, while Kevs Ford produced and played both acoustic & electric guitar and harmonium; Andy’ Constable provided the beats. and guest musicians Jamie Nemeth on violin & Ben Steer on mandolin brought their talents to bear to create what is an exceptional debut.
Bel Blue has created a remarkable work of real beauty in her first album’ which deserves national – and indeed international exposure. It has been an honour to preview tracks from it through July as ‘Album of The Month’ on the Honky Tonk Show in the lead up to its official launch.
The album will be released from 1st August – details on where to buy it are on Bel’s website Bel Blue Music
Bel’s website has info on the launch itself:-
To celebrate the launch there are some free events; on 1st August 2016, Bel Blue, and musicians will board The Open Boat, The Daffodil The Open Boat, for a journey from Cardiff Bay up the River Ely, to where Our Places was written. Once back on dry land, we will join friends to share songs and poems about time and place, at Our Places, Album Release Get-Together, at Octavo’s Cafe and Wine Bar, 5-7pm, West Bute Street Cardiff.Free event, for more information: Heyevent.uk Album Release Get-Together
Then on 11th August 2016 we have the Bel Blue, Album Launch Gig at The Andrew Buchan Bar Cardiff, 7.30-11pm, with support from Dave and The Daggers, Phillipa Irving, and Poet Will Ford. Free Event, for more information: Heyevent.uk Album Launch Gig.