The NBT Review 64

Melancholy Waltz – Richie Lawrence (Big Book Records)

This is what music is meant to do. I am transported from a weak summer day, still losing its battle with should be long gone winter, to standup flying through the shadows and the heat and sleepy heaviness of somewhere deep in old America.

This is stripped down dreamtime, breathing slow, deep and moody.

When the vocals start (accompanied by seductive accordion) they are laid back but almost flirtatious, in ‘Danielle’ one gets the impression that even if the woman in question is angry enough to THINK about leaving, she is also charmed by the gentle nostalgia of the playing.

Within the title track, Lawrence blends the sad dramatic with a sense of liberation, this and the other songs are flickering ancient images of battles fought and, again, one is taken back to the feel of dreams, the hopefulness perhaps of the weary optimist.

These are songs that soothe the savage self pity of the barroom late night, in awe of the days past, in love with the possibilities of the here and now.

Magically Lawrence creates secular hymns crossed with just the right hint of music hall bawdiness. When there is regret it is gentle and when there is love it is profound and utterly moving.

This collection is an escape, played pure, from the heart.

Hear tracks and thoughts from Richie Lawrence about the album on the NBT Podcast of the 13th May


The NBT Review 6

Still Crooked by Crooked Still (Signature Sounds Recordings)


The perfect introduction.

 A Death Ballad constructed as a flowing set of miniature solos.

Fluid, both minimal and HUGE, this romantic cinematic and ageless song, from the very first captures our attention and our soul.

This is no doom and gloom gothic low country record though. Every bit of deep sadness is honest and artistically painted with a subtle joy and indeed this album is as life affirming as Nekko Case or indeed Leonard Cohen.

(It has always bugged me that people believe that singers of great sad songs make the listener depressed.)

There is incredible beauty in the playing, from the thrilling fast ‘The Absentee’ to the unease and scares of ‘Did You Sleep Well’.

The album is populated with characters dealing with fear and shadows just out of sight, murder often on their minds, It is the journey that is attractive to Crooked Still, the struggle. In ‘Wading Deep Waters’ we never learn if the singer gets to her desired ‘home’ and it makes the song all the more haunting and powerful.

The perfect end.

A jaunty, sly dance of a put down, the smiles are loud and the music is exuberant.


So songs for the thoughtful and songs for couples going crazy.


Traditional instruments but a modern indie spirit.


This album, released in later this month, is an instant classic.


*Asterisk – Richard Kapp (Independent release)


This PianoMan evokes the spirits of the doomed romantic, the cabaret star with a dark past,

the wry poet on a candlelit stage.

There is a delicious ambiguity at work here, the stylized world weary vocals hiding a warmth and willingness to let slip secrets.

In the first of the two vocal collaborations on the disc ‘Warm and Safe’ it is no mistake that Kapp’s voice is mixed way down and at a distance and gradually pushed up so that we feel we have walked into a private conversation. Rufus Wainwright often tries for this kind of captivating tune, but I think, that Richard Kapp gets it right more often.

In ‘Climate’ amongst the almost sleazy languid grooves, there is a tension, a holding back, that draws you closer, while the trumpet swirls like a rainstorm and the strings slink and sway, it is the voice lost  but not lost in all this that you seek out.

A tune that came about because of the NBT podcast, ‘Wake Up, It’s me’ is quite simply one of the most beautiful tunes Kapp has ever written and NBT has ever featured.

Featuring a haunting guest vocal by Jazz Pianist and Vocalist Barbara Gilles, this is a breathtaking display of classical keyboard and a pure pop ballad. Those that say this kinda of song is not made anymore should give this a listen to.

Kapp closes the album with ‘ Hello World’ a gently amusing almost epic, with a sad smile at it’s centre. The listener leaves this album enriched and thoughtful.

Hear both these artists on the next NBT podcast (4th June 08)