Emerging From The Mist (Part Three)

Emerging from the Mist 3

The first two editions of Emerging from the Mist focused on a range of bands and artists involved in areas of new music. Part Three focuses on singer-songwriters who are on the cusp of wider success and attention. In this case though, we are talking exclusively about female singer-songwriters. In keeping with the style of Emerging from the Mist, I have chosen a group of artists each working in a distinct area of music. They are Jazz-influenced guitar-toting singer-songwriter Sarah Munro; sassy soulful urban Pop protagonist Ruby Francis; ethereal ambient and electronic pop one-off Chloe March; organic Folk-Pop singer, writer and string player Sharon Lazibyrd and energy-driven Pop-Indie Rocker Lauran Hibberd.

SARAH MUNRO
Sarah-Monro

Hemel Hempstead’s Sarah Munro has been blazing a trail as a writer, guitarist and singer of soulful Jazz and acoustic songs ever since she supported Paul Carrack on a 24-date UK tour just less than two years ago. She soon caught the attention of musicians who are also broadcasters Jamie Cullum (BBC Radio 2) and Tom Robinson (BBC Radio 6 Music). Her live itinerary has already taken in the Cheltenham Jazz Festival, Pizza Express Jazz Club, Royal Albert Hall Restaurant and other prestigious venues and festivals.

She is also about to kick off a new tour at Bush Hall in London’s Shepherds Bush. Now she has a new album and a new live band with which she aims to focus a little more on the folkier elements of her sound.

Angel Road underlines the confidence Sarah has gained from a year of amazing gigs and positive media response. She has kept with the kind of organic approach, voice, piano and guitar leading the charge with plenty of space for Sarah to stretch out and demonstrate the different elements of her voice, clear as a bell, soft and low register one moment, striking and soaring into upper register the next. Credit must also be given to her father and former Mainframe member Murray Munro for his contribution to the playing and production throughout the album. And just to underline the talent in the Munro family, Sarah’s sister Alison (who has frequently performed with her playing piano, synth etc) also provided the cover art for the album. Having seen Sarah perform live twice, I can confirm that it is genuinely goose-bumping to be in the room experiencing these aspects in real time.

Lyra’s Dream, with its gorgeous acoustic (steel string?) acoustic guitar melody, another filmic aura and spine-tingling vocal performance, is a strong start to a highly accomplished and impressive album that, in every sense, underlines Sarah’s development as singer, writer and musician. Take Me Home by contrast is slightly folkier, her voice floating effortlessly atop a reverberant guitar and strings backdrop. Maybe recalls classic singer-songwriters like Eva Cassidy and even Anne Murray. There’s a hint of Country in Stranger So Sweet while the title track Angel Road starts with vocal and acoustic guitar, adding layers as it develops with some beautifully understated piano, sweet strings and Sarah’s voice swooping and soaring impressively as she traverses the dynamic and registral spectra.

Illusion adds an interesting rhythmic aspect and makes great use of simple but effective two-part harmony. The bridge definitely has shades of Joni Mitchell though the chorus is more contemporary in style, even a hint of Andrea Corr perhaps. For One Moment rounds off the album, very much in throwback movie ballad territory, piano the main accompanying instrument to Sarah’s emotionally powerful vocal. You can buy the album from Amazon, iTunes and other download platforms. If, like me, you are a sucker for lovingly crafted, sophisticated songwriting, classy musicianship and a voice that will burrow into your brain and let loose the butterflies, I recommend you put it on your shopping list.

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RUBY FRANCIS
Ruby Francis

Londoner Ruby Francis doesn’t really need much introducing. Fresh from owning the BBC Introducing Stage at Latitude (yeah, same one I played on the previous year but somehow I think she might have wowed the crowd a bit more than I did!!), performing outside BBC Broadcasting House and making cool videos, getting free clothes from Missguided and being managed by Ferocious Talent, I think it’s fair to say that Ruby is already on the threshold of major success.

It would seem like a travesty if that didn’t follow for her. It’s rare for someone like Ruby to come along who has all the ingredients – great songs, fantastic voice, musicianship, drive, personality and work ethic – needed for success. The fact that she is young, effortlessly cool and image-aware makes that success seem all the more likely.

Ruby’s style is essentially Pop and her appeal is broad but she exudes Soul and her sound dips into R’n’B, Hip Hop and EDM territory. Her registral and dynamic range is impressive but she also has one of those voices with which she merely has to open her mouth and sing ‘la’ and it sounds delightful. Most of us spend our entire lives trying to aspire to such innate singing talents! She has a penchant for penning a strong hook too. It was the infectious Drip Drop that first grabbed my attention earlier this year when it arrived in the Listening Post uploader. It was one of those songs that simultaneously reminded me of various others. For example, the layers of harmony sometimes operating in fourths and fifths below the melody recalled Prince while the yearning in her voice had shades of Deniece Williams. Yet it was thoroughly contemporary and these classic elements were more nuances than overt flavours. Pharell Williams is one influence she readily acknowledges. Interestingly though she also cites Brazilian Jazz guitarist/singer Joao Gilberto (former husband of Astrud, in case you were wondering) as an inspiration.

New single All Of The Time again underlines her willingness to experiment with sounds and concepts that mark her out from the general mainstream. That is especially true of the synth sounds in the intro and the tremelo organ that sits quietly behind verses dominated by Ruby’s soulful voice and rich harmonies. The little melody that buzzes away under the hook again reminds me of Prince while the backing vocals could be Angie Stone. So again it’s a very modern sound laced with retro elements (though Angie Stone might contest the notion of being ‘retro’!).

Like a lot of younger artists Ruby collaborates with writers and producers who can bring different angles to her songwriting. She also produces regular remixes of her own material, adding new elements to her sound and enabling her to reevaluate her work as she goes along. Her interview with Sean Gran, also available on Soundcloud, reveals an intelligent, articulate personality and explains a lot of the thought processes behind her lyrics. It also underlines the full-on extent of her live itinerary and the proactive management behind her. All the ducks seem to be forming a neat row for Ruby Francis. Expect to hear a lot about her in 2019.

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CHLOË MARCH
Chloe March

Chloë March has been around a lot longer than Sarah or Ruby as an artist and has been quietly and gradually building her reputation and fanbase through patiently releasing albums of unclassifiable ethereal songs that draw on Classical, Folk, Prog, Ambient, Jazz and various other flavours topped off by her distinct and appealing vocals. Now she too has a new album but this time it’s a collaboration with Ambient Music producer Todd Tobias. The album is out in early September but in the meantime they have dropped the extraordinary single Lallulow on which Chloë takes the concept of voice-as-instrument in overdrive with warbles, rattles and words that don’t necessarily mean anything in particular. It’s beautifully done and Todd’s ambient, dreamy textures provide the perfect vehicle.

A short time ago Chloë was also enjoying well deserved success at the FOTN Listening Post with the evocative Wild Cherries. This will be in my top singles of 2018. I can guarantee you that because weeks after I first heard it, scarcely a day goes by when I don’t find myself singing it to myself. It is haunting, brooding, a song emerging from the summer shadows or an eerily beautiful reflection on a calm river. Well anyway, see what you think!

Chloë is in that musical space where getting recognition beyond the niche media is tough and something that has to be fought for. The best way to fight for that attention is to keep making fine music and her consistency in delivering on that goal is what politicians like to refer to as a matter of record (no pun intended!). Let’s hope teaming up with Todd Tobias can be a bit of a springboard for this talented unique artist.

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SHARON LAZIBYRD
Sharon Lazibyrd

One of the individuals I have been delighted to come across in my role with Fresh On The Net is Somerset’s Queen of organic Folk-Pop Sharon Lazibyrd. Sharon is immensely likeable and endlessly supportive towards other artists. But before you leap to any conclusions, that isn’t why we love her music at FOTN. No, that would be because she writes dynamic, emotionally charged songs accompanied by delicate guitar and piano and expertly played strings, topped off by Sharon’s loud, penetrating voice.

Her album Half Shame and Half Glory has all these qualities and the title track, which came through our uploader in May 2018, cut my emotions to ribbons when I heard it (and not many songs do that to me these days!). I was privileged to receive a copy of the album from Sharon to review in my Trust The Doc new music blog. And I was certainly not disappointed. It was a welcome affirmation of the depth and quality of Sharon’s songwriting and also her wonderful use of Violin and Viola playing against piano and acoustic guitar to really add a layer of contrasting texture and timbre to her organic sound.

I have reviewed the album previously for Trust The Doc so I won’t needlessly repeat myself here but, if the title track is something of a tear-jerker thanks to Sharon’s loud, matter-of-fact delivery and exquisite playing, then the life-affirming Don’t Worry offers another, equally warm and engaging side to her musical personality. I thoroughly recommend checking Sharon Lazibyrd’s music out. Somerset’s Queen of mystical Folk-Pop needs to be heard in all the other counties and cities across these fair isles.

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LAURAN HIBBERD
Lauran Hibberd

Last but absolutely not least we come to the Isle of Wight’s sizzling Indie Rock Pop grenade Lauran Hibberd. I use this ambiguous analogy only because of the way her songs crackle and fizz before exploding into life. Maybe I should have mentioned fireworks! Anyway let’s get on with talking about why Lauran is in my five choices.

Writing about Lauran recently I mentioned my sense that she belonged in a lineage that goes back to the likes of Fuzzbox, The Primitives and Darling Buds as well as more contemporary artists like Dream Wife and St Vincent. Her style is power-driven, guitar-dominated and bristling with energy and excitement and her vocals are in classic Indie Rock territory but her melodies are strong and infectious as the catchy and wholesome Call Shotgun is a solid reminder. The fact that it was made BBC Introducing Single of the Week by BBC Radio One earlier this month tells you just how close Lauran stands to the precipice of success and recognition.

Fun Like This is slower but driven by the same ‘fuzzed up Indie’ chords to paraphrase Lauran’s own words while the amusingly titled Hunny Is This What Adults Do? is jaunty, immediate and infectious. Eliza is uptempo and has another great hook. This abundance of strong choruses in Lauran’s songs is no fluke.

What all these songs demonstrate is that not only is Lauran a great tongue-in-cheek lyricist with a striking, distinct voice and a refreshingly energetic Punk-Pop sensibility but she is also a smart arranger and is coolly aware of how to mix the ingredients that bring out the best in her slightly lazy but very likeable singing style. The Alt Pop scene always needs to make room for genuine individuals who stand out for the right reasons. Lauran does. And that’s why she deserves to be exposed to a bigger audience.

There are of course hundreds of talented singer-songwriters, male and female, out there and we hear a lot of them every week at the Fresh on the Net uploader. So big shout to all you budding artists. Keep sending us your best recordings of your best tracks.

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PART ONE | PART TWO

Neil March

Neil March is a Composer & Artist with a PhD and Masters in music composition from Goldsmiths University, who has pursued careers in the contemporary classical and pop worlds, and has been supported by BBC Introducing, for whom he performed with his live ensemble The Music of Sound at Latitude in 2017. Read more.

5 Comments

  1. Well done! Congratulations! 🙂

  2. Thanks Ludwig. 🙂

  3. The entire Blood-Red Spark album by Chloë March is superb – there is a real unique mood to it and yet each song is different…all the instrumentation, crackles, blips and pauses are somehow perfectly effortless. Thanks.

  4. Excelent article as usual. Thanks Neil.

  5. Thanks John & Black Mirror for your lovely comments. And I agree about Chloe’s Blood-Red-Spark album. 🙂

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