You have to give it to Kate Dimbleby she seems determined not to be corralled into any particular camp when it comes to musical styles, instead she looks to use her voice to explore wherever her artistic spirit takes her.
With five albums under her belt she is trying a brave venture of an album of original songs which are all essentially a Capella.
This shows both her confidence in her abilities and her willingness not to be constrained when it comes exploring other genres. Songbirds opens with a torch song, Limbo, where her silken tones express her first heartbreak and the feeling of emptiness.
The layering of her voice is used to great effect and gives it the nuance of a spiritual.
Love Can Be Easy has a much more relaxed tone and you get the sense that it comes from a much happier and settled place than the previous track.
The undertone harmonies have an almost lazy feel to them, having the sort of cadence you associate with a lullaby.
With Happy you can feel the influence of Bobby McFerrin, who had a novelty hit back in the 80s with Don't Worry Be Happy, however, it feels like there is great deal more going on with what is close to a schizophrenic sound. You can pick out overtones of Laurie Anderson but with the main body of the singing sounding very much like Crystal Waters and thrown in just for good measure are primal screams which never really let you settle into the song.
There is a move back to the spiritual feel for Musical Boxes. This time you get a deeper resonance from Dimbleby's voice and the layers also give it an eerie feel like you are listening to some ancient pagan or tribalistic ritual.
This gives way to the gentle opening of Life Is which is Dimbleby musing about the men in her life. It's a quick composition which builds to a crescendo which then dies out just as fast just like an important message hurriedly passed on in the shortness of time.
At Our Best is the type of song which you could easily hear leaking from the windows of a church. It has that triumphal marching cadence but the problem is it's the shortest track on the album and just as you get into it, it's gone!
There is a sense that this was written with a particular person in mind, to reassure them they would always have someone to turn to and as you listen you are never sure whether you should take it on board for yourself.
These Things, They Will Come has an old-style plantation song feel to it, the sort of song you associate more with Billie Holiday or Mahalia Jackson.
There is a depth of feeling from Dimbleby and you get the sense this song comes from a dark place, you can almost imagine the chorus being the voices of the demons she is trying to exorcise with her words.
Harder Than You Think is almost a musical experiment. It was created in spontaneity and is the vocal equivalent of musicians just getting together to jam in between recording tracks.
Dimbleby brings a thoughtful and seemingly nervous style to the penultimate track, Walk Away. As you listen you do feel you are getting an insight into her inner character, it has the feel of her singing and being almost oblivious to anyone listening.
There is a strong emotion in the simple style where you feel at any moment her words could falter in a swirl of once restrained feelings.
The album goes out with Song For A Hill, although there could be a case for arguing that the previous track should have ended the list, where Dimbleby introduces far more sounds than previous tracks. Strangely enough it's the sound effects which seem to take precedence and the voice is reduced to wordless harmonies in the distance.
It does seem slightly out of place almost like the wrong last piece of a jigsaw forced into place to get a finished article.
|The solo album|
It's a risky move to create whole album using just her voice and could prove a little too niche for many and you could see why Folkstock Records would take up her cause because it specialises in championing the female voice, and has come up with some wonderfully surprising, strong and successful songstresses.
In some ways Songbirds is a tough one to quantify but you have to give it to Dimbleby, she has got as far as she has purely by cutting her own swathe while staying true to how she wants to perform. This album does come across as something of an experiment, a water tester, how the results will turn out remains to be seen.
Songbirds will be released on the Folkstock Label on February 23 at the NOW Gallery, Greenwich.