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One of the real joys of being a music critic is when you are sent an album to review from an artist that you know little about, but immediately fall in love with their music.
I have just received the debut album of Elaine Lennon from Scotland. On first hearing I was hooked immediately by both the quality of her music and her songwriting ability. Here is a lady who sings from the heart with real passion and who writes lyrics that you can both understand and associate with.
One of my favourite female artistes is Beth Nielsen Chapman who I have followed for many years and admired. She writes about life with an extraordinary feeling and compassion, and Elaine Lennon does likewise.
Elaine has written all the songs on this eleven track album with the exception of one song. "She's Got You" which was written by American country singer Hank Cochran and originally recorded by Patsy Cline. Elaine's version is different to the original and, in my opinion, better.
Elaine's vocals and piano playing are a sheer delight. The stand out track, for me at least, is "Only Love Can Break Your Heart." This song personifies her songwriting skills beautifully. She has performed this at The Bluebird Café in Nashville to an appreciative audience, and they know a bit about good music when they hear it. You can see this performance on YouTube.
Elaine has delivered songs on this genre defying album all of which have a slightly different style and feel. The "In Songs We Live On" is not only very prophetic but is also an ambition that all songwriters live by. It has also been cleverly produced with its 1930's scratched record feel to it and with its Andrews Sisters' harmonies. The producer Findlay Napier has played a blinder on this number.
Elaine is a lady who obviously loves both life and her children. Her song "Little Bird Little Sailor" has been written for her boys and depicts the hopes and dreams of every parent in the lyrics. The heartrending "Alone Here With Me" will resonate with anyone who has been let down in life. "Fear (Breakup Song)" does exactly what it says on the tin. It describes both the pain and the relief of a relationship breakup.
Elaine's debut album, to be released in January, contains some of the most powerful and passionate lyrics I have heard in a long time. A lady who pours her heart out through her music and shares her dreams and love with her fans and listeners. The whole production is a delight from first track to the last.
This is one of the best debut albums I have heard in years. Fabulous musicianship, powerful and thought provoking lyrics, all brought together with vocals that will give your heart quite a few tugs. It ends perfectly with "By Your Side" which seems to me to be a good place to reside. However, be aware that there is a sneaky little brief extra track, number 12, at the end of the album. Make sure you listen to it as It is very cute and closes the album in the way that you would expect of a devoted Mother. You will have to wait until January to buy it though!
This album has been supported by The National Lottery through Creative Scotland and I fully endorse the use of these funds for the development of young talent.
LONESOME HIGHWAY - "Gifted with a delicately beautiful voice, her sound embraces light soul, jazz and radio friendly pop."
"Difficult to slot into any definitive musical category, Glaswegian Elaine Lennon’s debut album is most certainly easy on the ear. Gifted with a delicately beautiful voice, her sound embraces light soul, jazz and radio friendly pop, across the eleven tracks on this album.
Next Friday Night, a breezy love song, opens the album complete with Lennon’s impressive layered vocals. Trouble and Little Bird Little Sailor are soul driven gems, the latter an ode to her two young children. Alone Here With Me explores loneliness and isolation and the dramatic This recalls her fellow Scot Annie Lennox. The album includes one cover track, Hank Cochran’s She’s Got You, immortalised by Patsy Cline back in the early 60’s.
Top marks to Elaine and her team for the striking packaging, which includes a lyric booklet and some stunning photography. So many more high-profile artists seem to dismiss the principle of including the lyrics with their albums and settle for bland album covers - a cardinal error in my humble opinion - so thumbs up to Lennon and many of her contemporary emerging artists for reversing this trend. Also noteworthy is the impressive production by Glasgow singer songwriter Finlay Napier, who also contributes guitars and backing vocals in the mix. The Glasgow ‘go to man’ for pedal steel, Iain Sloan also features, as does Euan Burton on bass."
Review by Declan Culliton
With Elaine’s assured and sophisticated singing and fine players like Findlay Napier, Patsy Reid and Euan Burton this is a solid and quality debut album. “Next Friday Night” is a smooth opener, layered voices with a touch of Katie Melua class over understated strings and a gently rippling piano. “Trouble” has a little Rockabilly swagger and pout. Elaine raises the heat with a more Imelda May vocal that smolders over gritty guitar and Ian Sloan’s pedal steel. What sets Elaine apart is that she can be big voiced and bluesy or understated as the line dictates within the same song. “Only Love Can Break Your Heart” is a sweet piano ballad with clear and captivating annunciation from Elaine. “This” is a surprisingly contemporary piece with a electronic sounding bass note and some sizzling electric guitar. Think Duffy and that compelling mix of classic soul and modern. Lennon rides the swirl of sound recalling a confident Kate Bush. “Alone Here With Me” is a Country slow dance that builds slowly with a captivating vocal over strummed smooth guitars and sophisticated piano. “She’s Got You” is a contemporary sounding take of the old country break up song, imagine Kate Bush again doing Patsy Cline. Some of the smoothness is stripped away on this emotional piano ballad. “Little Bird Little Sailor” is another surprise arrangement wise with a modern jazz Postmodern Jukebox feel to the bass and piano intro. Elaine delivers another confident swaggering vocal over a lively surprising arrangement, again we have vintage and modern overlaid. “In Songs We Live On” carries that old and new mix on with Lennon in wartime crooner or Andrews Sisters mode over a scratchy 78 piano. “You And Me” develops those classic easy listening layers of vocals like a cloud of loveliness over Elaine’s piano, building a definite atmosphere. Carrying on from “She’s Got You”, “’Fear” is a break up song, but there is a sinister edge. Elaine’s voice is confident, defiant rather than just bruised as she turns on her own emotions. Fans of Agnes Obel’s voice and piano atmospheric slightly gothic music will connect with this track and its emotional intensity. “By Your Side” takes the simple elements of voice, piano and violin and folds them in on themselves, building pressure from these three elements to create beauty.
This is a sophisticated assured debut from a singer who delivers brooding classic beauty. Elaine Lennon manages to keep it interesting by blending in classic smooth country, pop soul, crooners jazz and still managing to weave together those elements into something that hangs together as a wonderful whole.5/5 *****Marc Higgins
MAVERICK MAGAZINE - "Majestic - Lennon's vocals are tremendous. The songs stay with you for a long, long time after listening to the album"
Elaine Lennon releases her debut album on January 24th. Unless you knew the background, you wouldn’t know it was a debut album. Findlay Napier has produced it, the songs – almost all written by Lennon – are engaging, and Lennon’s voice is enthralling. The background is that Lennon’s lifelong passion had been music. When the youngest of her two children went to school in 2018, she sat down to work out whether she could be a professional musician. In less than two years, she has been named as “one to watch” by the Nashville Songwriters’ Association International and is about to release the self-titled album, Elaine Lennon.
Lennon’s vocals and piano are at the core of the album, with the band adding a nicely judged depth without being intrusive. My favourite track is ‘Fear (Breakup Song)’ which is delicately played and merges the images of relationship break up into a lyric about fighting and defeating Fear, as affirmative (for the Sci-Fi buffs) as Frank Herbert’s Litany Against Fear. It’s also a great tune, beautifully sung.
The link below is to ‘Trouble’ where you can hear for yourself the interplay between piano and vocal, in this case for a lyric about being in trouble because “love was not in my plan”. Lennon’s website has more detail on the origins of the song. Elsewhere ‘Only Love Can Break Your Heart’ both rises to the glories of love which can “make you fly above the clouds” and also captures the ruefulness of “Only love can softly pull the seams apart/Only love can break your heart”. There’s a tenderness to the vocal which is simply delightful. ‘You and Me’ feels like it’s from the same song-writing seam, this time the unchallenged contentment of being in love.
The only cover on the album is “She’s Got You”, the Hank Cochran masterpiece which was a hit for Patsy Cline in the early 60’s. Lennon’s version is less country, but doesn’t half tug at the heartstrings; it’s a great cover which makes the song sound bang up to date despite its nearly sixty years age.
The album will be launched on January 20th at The Glad Café as part of Celtic Connections. From what I’ve heard on this album and what I’ve flicked through on YouTube of Lennon’s live performances, if you’re up in Glasgow it will be worth your while finding time for this.
Glasgow singer songwriter ELAINE LENNON will release one of the most eagerly awaited albums on the Scottish music scene during her concert at Celtic Connections on January 24th 2020.
Since her first live appearance last December, Elaine started 2019 winning the prestigious Danny Kyle Award, appeared at both The Millport Country Music Festival and the Glasgow Americana Festival, and has been named as the Nashville Songwriters Association International 2019 “One To Watch”.
Her self titled debut album (Little Sailor Records), recorded at Chem19 Studios in Blantyre, features 10 self written songs and one Country standard. It would be a stretch of the imagination to label this as a Country album, but given that Millport and the NSAI have embraced her, then its only right we feature her in these pages too.
Several of the songs are quite bluesy/jazzy numbers, most notably, the lead single “Trouble”, “This” and “In Songs We Live On”. It’s a style which suits her voice on these songs.
But then again, on other tracks, I hear similarities with the likes of established Country singer songwriters such as Beth Neilsen Chapman and Lori McKenna.
The album kicks off with “Next Friday Night”, which has really grown on me over a few listens. Elaine plays piano, which features heavily throughout the album. The simplicity of the arrangement, highlights the piano, alongside her stunning vocals on this track. Similar ballads include the stunning “Only Love Can Break Your Heart”, “Alone Here With You” and “By Your Side”.
She does lift the tempo on “Little Bird, Little Sailor”. Again a little bluesy, it kinda reminds me of the likes of Bobbie Gentry or Joan Baez. But it shows that Elaine isn’t restricted to piano led ballads.
The one song that Elaine didn’t write, is a cover of Patsy Cline’s “She’s Got You”. But it’s a song that she could’ve written. Stripped right down to the piano, and a subtle whiff of steel way off in the background, Elaine delivers a stunning slowed down version of the song. I have to say that having heard the song hundreds of times, I found myself hooked on every word Elaine delivered in this version, more so than I ever did with Patsy!
For a debut album, this is a stunning collection of material, and will establish Elaine as a real force on the Scottish music scene in 2020.
A new year and a new artist to open 2020’s expected cornucopia of delights. Elaine Lennon is a Glasgow based singer songwriter who has only recently embraced her creative muse, waiting until seeing both her kids safely off to start their schooling before she commenced her own classes. Having been a passionate music fan, Lennon decided she would take the plunge and write her own songs, attending writing workshops and eventually taking her first tentative steps into live performance at the tail end of 2018. Her hard work paid off as she almost immediately won a Danny Kyle award at Glasgow’s Celtic Connections and then went on to be noted as “One to watch” by the Nashville Songwriters’ Association International. All in all a pretty impressive start which has been reinforced by a steady flow of live shows across Scotland which have all been critically well received.
And so, it’s debut album time and Lennon fulfils all the promise noted by her audiences (and those Nashville folk) as she turns in a tremendously accomplished set of songs which have her warm vocals and delicate keyboards to the fore over some very sympathetic band arrangements. With support from Creative Scotland she’s aided and assisted by some of Scotland’s best talent. Findlay Napier produces and plays guitar with Euan Burton on bass while Iain Sloan adds pedal steel and Patsy Reid manages the strings. Back in the old days this would have been called a bedsit album, a set of soothing ballads with some whispers of blues and good times, best listened to when needing cheered up after a break up, the sort of album Janis Ian used to do. There’s no doubt that Lennon does indeed raise memories of those confessional singer songwriters of yore who wrote songs which sounded like sad Christmas carols without ever mentioning Christmas, artists as diverse as Lesley Duncan and Dory Previn. More up to date, she’s obviously been a keen watcher of the likes of Gretchen Peters and it’s interesting to note that one of her more vocal supporters is Ben Glover, a man who has collaborated with Peters and as host of others.
The album opens and closes with two excellent songs. Next Friday Night pulls at the heartstrings as Lennon sings of a couple’s lifelong love story, her piano rippling away alongside a plaintive violin, her vocals here the best on the disc. By Your Side is in a similar vein, a song pledging undying love, which soars wonderfully with the piano and strings somewhat haunting. These are the type of songs in which Lennon excels and there are several here including Only Love Can break Your Heart which could have been a power ballad full of melodrama but her restrained vocals and , again, a minimal although lovely arrangement allows the song a quiet majesty. You And Me is another delicate ballad infused with hope while Fear (Breakup Song) is the one song here which is somewhat feisty in its lyrics while remaining true to the tried and trusted arrangements which suit Lennon so well.
Lennon breaks the mould on a couple of numbers. Trouble has a slight gospel blues touch to it, a Nina Simone feel if you will, and having seen Lennon play it live with vigour it has to be said that this cut is just a bit too restrained although the middle eight allows the band to swirl excellently. The throbbing bass and growling guitars on This give the song a dark Americana patina while Lennon pays tribute to a relative who played in Glasgow jazz bands back in the ‘60s on the entrancing In Songs We Live On, singing in a vampish manner over a scratchy original recording of his. There’s also one cover song on the album, a version of Hank Cochran’s She’s Got You which Lennon recrafts into another heartworn ballad with Iain Sloan adding some lambent pedal steel.
One can only salute Ms. Lennon on her drive, ambition and talent. The album is a most assured debut, and if luck remains on her side, some of the songs here would surely beg to be heard on the nation’s airwaves. In the meantime, she has an album release show under the aegis of Celtic Connections at Glasgow’s Glad Cafe on January 24th.
A highly-anticipated debut album is a phrase that is all too common these days. But to say this album is anything but that is truly an understatement. Nashville Songwriters’ Association International 2019 ‘One To Watch’, Elaine Lennon’s debut self-titled album is one she hopes will be strong and impactful and help her music career keep kicking on.
Elaine tells us that she wants to write the songs that she wants to listen to and I think we all want to listen to more of this style as well. The album is difficult to define, for it fits many different genres, from folk and Americana to jazz. This mix of styles is exemplified in the song ‘Trouble’, which has a really strong bluesy vibe as well as a real swagger to it, especially when she almost pleads for help: “I’m in trouble, trouble”.
What is great to hear throughout the album is a piano, something you rarely here in Americana music, and it enables more of this jazz feel, as does the beautiful love-story song, ‘Next Friday Night’. The lovely background piano combined with the great violin melody makes for an impressive start to the record.
Her comparisons to other artists don’t go unmerited, with the jazz and bluesy vibes of ‘This’ creating an Adele and Duffy vibe, with it almost mimicking the intro to Duffy’s song ‘Mercy’. But we don’t just get the slow jazz; we also get upbeat songs such as ‘Little Bird Little Sailor’, which stands out with a fun and jazzy background tune compared to the slow jazz seen in the others.
But by far the best song on the album is another one of the slower numbers, ‘In Songs We Live On’. On first listen, the song seems a bit similar to some of the others on the album, except for the interesting old-timey piano sound in the background which makes you start to ponder that perhaps there is more to this song than first thought. That interesting piano is in fact authentic 1960s jazz piano recordings of her uncle, which go perfectly with Lennon’s brilliant vocals. Rather than being just a great song, once you know the back story, you can’t help but appreciate the artistic link between old and new.
Overall, whilst this album is excellent for a debut album, it possibly has only 4 or 5 songs which really stand out, with some of the other numbers sounding quite similar. Yet what we still get is a new sound in the Americana scene, and that must be praised, showcasing how you can gain influence from all sorts of styles.
'Betty Mayonnaise Official' Blog:
Elaine Lennon - Elaine Lennon (LP - Little Sailor records)
Elaine Lennon has been bubbling under on the Scottish music scene and this first 11 track album is a confirmation of her talents. The record is warm, classy and incorporates country, blues influences along with a heady sprinkling of pure pop magic. Performed mainly on piano with other instruments coming in and out, this is an acoustic album, well worth a listen.
Highlights for BM would include the beautiful "Trouble", the dark and dangerous, brooding "THIS", which includes some lovely twangy guitar and the trad. country lament "She's Got You"...
"You and Me" is also a beautiful song, soothing and gorgeous while "Fear(Breakup Song)" is a fresh take on an old theme - ("I'm Leaving!").
EL has done this record her way and the results are quite astounding!
'Lennon recalled some of the classic singer songwriters from the past with echoes of Janis Ian, Dory Previn and even Nina Simone hovering around, the latter especially evident on the bluesy ‘Trouble‘. ‘Only Love Can Break Your Heart‘ (her song, not Neil’s) was a bedsit song in the best fashion while her closing number ‘By Your Side‘ was a touching ballad which just begs to be picked up by radio or covered by a major balladeer.’ Paul Kerr - AmericanaUK (Glasgow Americana Festival 2019)
Maverick Magazine Festival Review of the Millport Country Music Festival 2019
‘Elaine Lennon started cutting onions in the Acoustic Tent as her powerful piano led tracks had everyone feeling very emotional.’ - Maverick Magazine
"Lead by Elaine Lennon, the Acoustic Jam Session was electrifying. While it will be Cam that steals the headlines for doing Cam things, it was the session that was the true highlight of the festival"
- Maverick Magazine (on the Artist'Acoustic Jam Session organised and hosted by Elaine at Millport Country Music Festival Review 2019)