Well first, I think I’d better start by saying: ‘Wow, what a voice!’ And second, I’m asking myself why I hadn’t heard of this remarkably talented singer before now? It was Blues aficionado Sarah Reeve that first suggested that I listen to the music of singer Angela Lewis Brown. I heard a few samples on Soundcloud and was very impressed, I must say. Contacting the lady, I learnt that she was finalising an album for release in early October; and she kindly sent me a download of the completed album when it was ready; plus a CD copy for review too. I’ve heard some quite breath-taking female Blues singers in the last couple of years (as a brief look at the contents list on my site will testify); and Angela certainly fits that description without a doubt.
Set Me Free is a collection of ten great, original Blues songs, penned by the lady herself; and mostly at the Soul end of the Blues spectrum. Fellow music writer Nigel Foster, recently compared her to such greats as Dana Fuchs and Beth Hart. I totally agree; but I’d add Anastacia, Duffy, and even Taylor Dayne to the list of divas that she reminds me of. Yet for all that, she is no copy-cat; having an undeniable singularity that enables her vocals to be brutally gritty, or beautifully tender as is necessary for each song. There are nuances in her vocal style too, that are unique and delightful to pick out.
Her song-writing is superb too: ‘Blues Blues Lovin’ is the fine opening track; and right from the start there is no doubt that we are listening to a lady who sings full-throttle, and with genuine passion. That vibe continues with the title track ‘Set Me Free’. Again impressive vocals and some great musicianship from the band.
‘Summer Nights’ slows things down a lot. It could be a moody Paul Rodgers song – musically and lyrically, as well as vocally. Simple in construction, yet effectively passionate; its a cathartic release for the angst-ridden soul.
‘I’m Feeling Good About Me’ is a fun song that I particularly like. The vocal melody during the bridge and chorus didn’t go where I expected it to go, leaving me pleasantly surprised; and marking it out for me as one of many highlights of the album. Its catchiness could possibly make it a hit single.
This is followed by ‘Hopeless’. Its another great soul-laid-bare number. Nice sympathetic guitar; and I must say I particularly liked the backing vocals on this one, which seemed entirely appropriate for the emotion within the song.
‘Better Man’ lyrically shows Angela empowered as a no-nonsense woman; ridiculing a disappointing ex-lover. Great guitar and harp on this one. Vocally it appropriately conveys the anger that she feels. I wouldn’t want to upset this lady! The song with the shortest title ever, ‘I’, comes next. It follows the same theme of the unashamedly independent woman – ‘You ain’t talkin’ to me like that’ she sings! It has a great funky groove to it.
Once more we are then taken in to the world of emotional pain in the haunting ‘Ice Cold Tears’. Again its simple but effective in its construction; but would strike a heart-rending chord with anyone experiencing the confusion felt in some love crisis. Lovely lead guitar fills here.
The penultimate track ‘That’s You’ is a fun, funky number that would go down well live; and finally ‘I’ll Be There’ ends the collection. It is a beautiful Soul song, and I could also see it being a hit single. It is perhaps a surprising choice as a final offering; yet provides an understated, uplifting and above all, satisfying finish to a quite remarkable debut album.
On all tracks, the vocals, backing vocals and instrumentation are appropriately and impressively arranged. And consistently throughout the album, it is clear that Angela’s vocals are sung from the heart. The same can be said about her lyrics too.
Angela has delved into various MOBO-based genres in the past; but seems to have found a comfortable niche for herself within the Blues – it seems to suit her; and vice versa. She was apparently first turned on to the Blues after hearing Koko Taylor‘s earthy classic, ‘Ernestine’; and this opened a whole new world of music for her.
The CD comes in a standard Jewel Case. It has a simple, yet distinctive cover; with a little interesting info; photos; credits and thanks etc on the inner; but no lyrics. It was recorded, mixed and mastered at Bluebird Recording Studios, Lytham St. Anne’s, Lancs – and a good job they’ve done too.
Some fine musicians were invloved in the recording of the album: the multi-instrumentalist Chris Carter; Alisdair Pickering (on Guitar); Zanny Lee (Backing vocals); Ashley Hurst and Dunbar Delmar (both on harmonica). Bassist Steve Underwood (of Shakatak) is apparently now also in Angela’s band too. These musicians have all done a fine job. The guitar-work is especially good; but although the guitar enhances the songs, this is certainly not a guitar-based album – it is a vocal album; the whole collection being a vehicle for Angela’s remarkable natural talent.
I’ve not seen Angela perform live yet, but based on what I’ve heard on this album, I can see a great future for the lady for sure. If she is not included as a nominee for ‘Female Vocal’ and maybe ‘Song-Writer’ at the British Blues Awards next year, I’ll be amazed! If you like female vocal and high quality Blues with a Soul vibe, and sung with a passion, then I recommend Set Me Free – you’ll love it! PTMQ
The album will be released on 2nd October 2015; and will be available from Angela’s website…