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Gemma Hayes | Night On My Side (Source)
Stymied. I may not read press releases, but I do spend too much time perusing the inner sleeves. No such luck here though, it's a fancy promo with all the details available on an electronic press kit, which means that Mr Luddite here hasn't a clue who provides the fruity bass that enriches the sleepy opener Day One complete with Gemma's vocals croaking in the morning light. Does it matter about such minutiae? Well, no, but I like to complain. Once her voice has had its first cup of coffee it roars and simpers as appropriate. It breaks in all the right places, like the fragile hearts she sings about and sighs when there's something to cry about. There's no sheen here, no buffing of a faded finish and sometimes the sparseness is deafening, while at others the multi-tracked vocals and layered sound is noisily unobtrusive. Even when Let A Good Thing Go ventures close to Sheryl Crow territory there is always Ran For Miles to turn it around and head straight for the heart. It's not all about the vocals and lyrics either, mighty fine though they are, for just as What A Day almost stumbles over its wordiness then Tear In My Side relies on a few lines and a nifty arrangement to provide the power. After all that noise it's up to I Wanna Stay to show just what this young girl is capable of. A simple arrangement backs her voice, at its finest, and even the crescendo of harmonies doesn't dampen the fragility as it all falls down into a gaggle of child's cries. If that doesn't move you then you're reading the wrong magazine. Even the tsunami clamour that rolls Lucky One along isn't as intense, although it does a good job in the context of that song, partially submerging the male vocoder vocals that swim behind Hayes' own. Once this pair have left you breathless it's down to two simple, but moving, songs to draw the album to a close and as the title track wafts along in a countryish vein you wonder what Ms Hayes will come up next after such a storming debut. We can only hope she doesn't get blown off course and sticks to being a breath of fresh air who's willing to take a few chances and not tread a familiar path.

Laurence Arnold
CWAS #11 - Autumn 2002

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