Alice Russell - Pot Of Gold
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Long time fans like Gilles Peterson find it just as perplexing as Ms Russell does herself as less female vocalists are at the top of charts and she remains relatively unknown. At least the people that know her know how good she is.
XLR8R have said, “The best young British soul siren around is Alice Russell” and it’s a fact that she has constantly outshone others like Winehouse, Stone, Duffy, etc. Tru Thoughts certainly thought so when they spotted her in 2002 and she was soon working with Will Holland and his Quantic Soul Orchestra. At this time she was belting out soulful covers like 4hero’s ‘Hold It Down’ and Holland’s own classic ‘Pushin’ On’ (although the Paul Murphy remix was the version and it was such a shame it didn’t see the light of day at the time).
In Holland’s guise as Quantic, 2004 saw Ms. Russell featuring on his Mishaps Happening album (I listened to this the other day and its holding up rather well I thought) but it was when she joined up with Ben Lamdin’s Nostalgia 77 project for their version of ‘Seven Nation Army’ that heads and ears really started turning. And whilst her debut album Under The Munka Moon was a bit of a collection of guest appearances and wasn’t that well received, it ws followed by the real debut My Favourite Letters and then back with Nostalgia 77, ‘Humankind’ was a return to form.
My Favourite Letters was producer and co-written with guitarist and musical soul mate Alex Cowan (aka TM Juke of TM Juke & The Jack Baker Trio.
Pot of Gold is another Russell/Cowan collaboration and again it has Jack Baker on percussion and the same horn section that was on Boto And The Second Liners. And it is truly as pot of golden soul ‘n’ jazz ‘n’ funk that at least matches Daptone’s Sharon Jones & The Dap-kings and Menahan Street Band (they of the mighty Make The Road By Walking); yep, it’s that good! And that’s a big claim but Pot Of Gold see Stax influences mixed in with gospel, soul and jazz in the funk (you can see how they got the album title).
Whilst we can’t under estimate how awesome their cover of Gnarls Barkley’s ‘Crazy’ is (as everything is stunning form the vocal performance to the musical arrangements, strings an’ all - it’s a classic that surpasses her ‘Seven Nation Army’ by a full frontal lobotomy), it would be foolish to not get into the other ten tracks.
Regular readers will guess that I’m drawn to the jazzier elements (particularly the flute of Mike Lesirge on ‘Universe’ and Dave Mecklin on ‘Hesitate’) but the CD starts with a pair of Ronsonesque tracks, ‘Turn and Run’ and ‘Two Steps’.
More ‘trademark’ like Russell is ‘Hurry On Now’, ‘Living The Life Of A Dreamer’ (ignoring the intro) and ‘Got The Hunger?’ which features the classic organ backed up with funkin’ horn. ‘Let Us Be Loving’ is a bit of quirky production but shows off Jack’s drumming and the bass work of another longstanding band member Dan Swaine.
You could say ‘Lights Went Out’ is ambitious with a mix of fiddle, gospel and boogie-woogie bar room but it’s followed by ‘Crazy’ so we all lose our mind every now and again.
The album ends on a track called ‘All Alone’ which she certainly won’t be for long. Whilst she’s currently on tour in NZ/Oz, there are three Pot of Gold release parties planned in January (San Francisco on 22nd, Los Angeles on 29th and New York City on 30th). You’d be crazy not to go but if you can’t, buy the album - you won’t regret it.
Reviewed: Alice Russell - Pot Of Gold (Six Degrees Records)
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