Spanish singer-songwriter Joana Serrat recently released her latest album ‘Cross The Verge’ on the Loose Music imprint in the UK and visited our shores for a short run of dates which included a show at the charmingly named Slaughtered Lamb in the heart of London. In stark contrast to the name The Lamb turned out to be a large pub with comfy leather sofas far removed from the image that the name might imply. Fans of the classic movie ‘An American Werewolf In London’ will be disappointed to find that there is no connection, at least initially, to the film but venture downstairs into the venue proper and the neon Slaughtered Lamb / pentagram logo is behind the stage. I must admit this did impress the inner film geek in me.
‘Cross The Verge’ is a quite lovely record, recorded in Canada with producer Howard Bilerman and featuring the likes of Gavin Gardiner (The Wooden Sky) and Aaron Goldstein (Cowboy Junkies) that blends Americana influences with a shimmering pop sensibility and the result is wonderfully engaging. The songs are terrific and Joana’s light, breathy, airy vocal style fits perfectly with the material. The first challenge for any singer-songwriter is how to present your material when your album is a full on band recording and you’ve turned up with just a guitar. The old adage that a good song will work perfectly when played without all the bells and whistles turned out to be correct in this instance.
Joana took to the stage dressed all in black before a small but appreciative Monday night audience and played a short but sweet set with emphasise on the new record. Joana has a relaxed, natural and humble stage presence and has tackled the solo performance of her songs in an interesting and clever way with the addition of two guitar pedals to fill out the sound when required. The use of reverb and a Memory Man delay works wonderfully well and confirms the Angelo Badalamenti / Twin Peaks comparisons that I felt where evident, when I first heard the album, on the fantastic ‘Lonely Heart Reverb’ and it’s this deceptively simple use of technology, matched with the vocal, that gives the performance an ethereal quality. If David Lynch is looking for some tunes for his next movie he should give Joana a call. I should also mention that for one tune Joana strapped on a harmonica rig to make contact with her inner Bob Dylan which all singer-songwriters are wont to do and that was also a success. Tonight was an enjoyable evening and I hope we get to see Joana again soon, especially if she can bring a band along for the ride.
It would be remise of me not to add a quick mention for the opening act this evening Ellie Ford who is another artist who recently released an album ‘The Other Sun’ that features a full band but opted for just a harp for this solo show. Ellie came over as relaxed and quite funny as she discussed the effect of the unusually warm UK weather on harp strings/tuning….the result not good and yes the harp will fit in her estate car. Ellie has a strong, clear and versatile voice which she uses well and her percussive harp playing also impressed. I don’t know the album as yet but the likes of recent single ‘July’ bode well for her future career and I’ll be sure to check out ‘The Other Sun’ at the earlier opportunity.
Gig date May 9th 2016.