GOTA FRIA - BETH ROWLEY
LCM ALBUM OF THE MONTH - JULY 2018
- Artist: Beth Rowley
- Release Date: 29th June, 2018
- Genre: Blues, Gospel, Rock, Jazz
- Record Label: Stoopnik Records
- Tracks: 12 (+ hidden bonus track)
- Website: https://bethrowley.com/
- Review By: Gary Smith (LCM)
Beth Rowley is one of those singer-songwriters than you can't help falling in love with her music. A fantastic vocalist with a super smooth voice, that sounds like gently pouring warm chocolate over velvet. Beth was nominated for a Brit award in 2009 for 'Best British Female Solo Artist', after the release of her excellent debut album 'Little Dreamer'. Since then Beth has been working tirelessly to create and release her eagerly awaited second album 'Gota Fria' named after a meteorological event, an especially violent autumn storm that happens in Spain. It is literally translated as the ‘cold drop'.
Beth comments that it describes “long periods of the clouds breaking off and remaining stationary for weeks and then sudden violent clashes of warm and cold currents. I thought it was a beautiful name, and an awesome album title, because the meaning is so bold and a perfect image of my own journey.”
'Gota Fria' sees Beth return to her roots and her favourite musical styles of Blues, Gospel, Americana, Rock and Folk. It's a darker, richer and more mature album than 'Little Dreamer', a real labour of love for Beth. It's a total vindication, a rawer, heavier, gutsier and more truthful mirror of her sublime talent, unshackled by her debut’s jazz-pop and polished production. Working with co-writers Ron Sexsmith, Marcus Bonfanti and Ben Castle, Beth has delivered an album that smolders, in both explosive and intimate forms. She is also joined on this album by a host of excellent musicians, many who are also part of her live touring band. The album explores darkness and light, personal experiences, hardship, successes and close relationships.
With it's rich arrangements the album opens with the very atmospheric and ethereal 'Shut It Down'. Pedal steel, harmonica breaks. distorted electric guitar and keys plus driving percussion dove-tailing together. It's themed around the escape from such a damaging partnership. One of my favourite live from Beth shows is the rocking 'Howl At The Moon', so I was thrilled that she included it in the new album. I love the heavy bass rift and the almost hypnotic guitar melody line. The tracks has all the drama of Led Zeppelin. Another atmospheric and lovely rich cinematic track is 'Bronze'. It could easily be a TV or film theme with it's touches of Pink Floyd. This high quality album continues with the beautiful and reflective 'Brave Face'. Optimistically evaluating the simplicity of loving someone. A co-write with Canadian singer-songwriter Ron Sixsmith is next. Written about Beth's brother is the aptly titled and heartfelt 'Brother', definitely proving that less is more. Just stunning vocals and the soft underpinnings of electric guitar that perfect sets the mood.
Another co-write with the excellent Ron Sexsmith, is the lovely latest version of 'Forest Fire', with it's great new arrangement and soaring heavenly choir. “I’m a livewire and you are too. Sparks seem to fly when I’m close to you............I have no desires in starting a forest fire,”
The mood slows again for the personal, reflective and confessional 'Princess', with it's soft acoustic guitar and percussion with light accents on keys. I love the build on the song, slowly adding electric guitar breaks and heavier percussion as the drama builds, then drifting back to the opening themes. 'Get It Back' has a fusion of Americana, Country Rock and a US West Coast feel. It reminds me of Sheryl Crow on her debut 'Tuesday Night Music Club' album. It also comes complete with an uplifting gospel moment which I really enjoyed.
It's very interesting to hear the new version of 'Only One Cloud' on 'Gota Fria' which also was included on Beth's debut album. What a difference ten years makes. Brooding bass and pedal steel adding the tone. The original version carried the idea of the only cloud in the sky hanging directly over her head, and lightning shaking her up and pinning her to the ground. When the lyric, “I feel so alive and there’s only one cloud in the sky” rolls in, it shifts from self reflection to a exploration about how adversity can be overcome and can finally strengthen us. You can't help thinking that this version is very autobiographical. It's perfectly complemented by the gentle and heartfelt 'Run To The Light', with its gentle strummed acoustic guitar. 'Hide From Your Love' splices country-folk roots with the vibe and energy of the Bristol scene that gave birth to her voice.
This high quality album concludes with the brooding, stormy and contemporary folk feeling title track 'Gota Fria'. "Chaos reigns and the Earth it falls. But I am still, ‘cos I am yours,” speaking volumes for how the new album strikes a older, more experienced worldly wise and mature chord. Another wonderful build on this track and one that I'm sure will be a great live crowd favourite. Watch out for the bonus track, a lovely track which speaks candidly to an absent love: "Well I swore that I’d be fine......well I’m not this time". It’s a very fitting end to an excellent album.
I hope that after a ten year gap between studio albums that Beth doesn't leave the next release as long. There is a lot more great music to come from this very talented Bristol based singer-songwriter. On her decade-long absence, Beth explains: “People always ask, ‘What are you doing next?’, and think you should always be creating. But creativity is a real up and down process for most people, which isn’t celebrated and or encouraged enough. You need to take time to stop and make sure your purpose is still real.”
Beth will be on a UK Tour in September with the London date at Oslo in Hackney on the 14th September. Don't miss this album played live. Highly recommended.