Whirlwind EP Review
By Lesley Hastings
Having had her last single “Paper Heart” playlisted by BBC Radio 2 , supporting Michael Bolton on his UK tour and attracting a fair amount of positive feedback, I was intrigued to find out a bit more about British country music singer/songwriter Lucy-May.
The fact that she worked two jobs to help self-fund her forthcoming album, and travelled to Nashville to work with high profile writer/producer Jeff Cohen, scored points for determination with me straight away. So when I found out she was performing at Canary Wharf recently as part of an evening of country music I took the opportunity to see for myself what all the fuss was about and to grab a copy of her EP “Whirlwind”, released to whet the appetite ahead of her album.
Of the four tracks on the EP, Lucy May co-wrote two, working with the afore-mentioned Cohen together with Zach Abend, who seems to collaborate with Cohen a fair bit both as writer and producer at BMI, Nashville. Love is the theme, in some shape or form, on all four tracks ( the final one being a cover version) so nothing hugely original in their subject matter, but each looks at it in a slightly different way. While Lucy May is accompanied by a full band on the first two numbers (and a pretty accomplished set of musicians they appear to be) a couple of acoustic tracks round off the EP. I like this notion, for as well as giving variety, the stripped back recordings help the listener to concentrate on vocals and lyrics.
The title track, by far the most commercial, is a fast paced, country-pop offering. Love can hit you when you’re least expecting it, don’t let love pass you by, is the message here and it is very catchy indeed. With its driving beat ( love the drums, and there’s a couple of superb rocky guitar solos too) it is definite single material and I think radio stations would love it, whether country-based or more mainstream.
Hooked on Your Love is the most traditionally country track, thanks largely to the addition of some great pedal steel. Mid-tempo, it tells of regrets about falling too quickly for a no-good two timer ( likening him to “cheap red wine) but being thankful to have now found a new, more worthy love. Another catchy chorus, this is easily my favourite track on the EP. A May/Abend collaboration, as is track 3 which also includes Cohen on the writing credits…..these three make a great songwriting team and I will be interested to see if there are any more of their compositions on her full album.
So, the third track , and the first of the acoustics, is “Hole In My Heart”, a charming ballad about missing a past love and wanting to recapture the way things used to be. Nothing new here, subject matter- wise, but what it does is which show case Lucy May’s vocals which, although not the strongest around at the moment are particularly suited to this type of song and arrangement. She sings with feeling, and is a lovely interpreter of lyrics.
Finally, there is a cover of a Ray Lamontagne song, “Hold You In My Arms”, the only track on the EP not produced in Nashville and the difference in quality is obvious. There’s a much tinnier, echoey sound to the track and sorry, it just didn’t seem to sit well with the rest . A tricky song vocally, it definitely challenges Lucy May technically and I would have preferred her to have kept things simple as to my ear many of the licks/triplets were not at all accurate, although once again there was some lovely emotion coming through .
As mentioned before, I did see Lucy May and her band perform a 40 min set recently, and enjoyed hearing some of these tracks live as well as several others which will no doubt appear on her debut album. And there were some real good ones!! I did get the feeling she was a little nervous initially, and throughout the set she did struggle a bit to compete with the band which was a shame as when she pushes her vocals she needs to watch her tuning. Saying that, I would definitely see her again ( love her quirky retro look, Ronnettes inspired??) and am sure, like all artists, her confidence and stage presence will benefit the more she gigs. Her writing certainly impresses me, and I look forwards to the album and to seeing again her at Dexeter’s album launch in London this July ( if not before!)