Sunday, October 09, 2016

Album Review: Grow By Amanda St John.

It was last year that I discovered the music of Amanda St John. It was at the party in Belfast to celebrate Van Morrison’s 70th birthday. Amanda performed and I thought she was great so earlier this year when I heard that her debut album was being released I bought a copy which Amanda kindly signed for me. When I first heard it I resolved to write a review but with my book coming out and then it being festival season I never got around to it. Now it is Autumn, the days of the leaves, things have quietened down a bit and I have more time on my hands. I played the album again today and decided it was high time I got that review written so this is it.

Firstly, a bit about Amanda, she comes from
County Antrim in Northern Ireland and has been writing and singing since an early age. Amanda has worked in the past with some great people including someone I really admire and have three albums by, namely Duke Special ( See picture). She has had some setbacks in her career, at one point she developed nodules on her vocal chords which forced her to take a break from singing for a long while and in 2011 was lucky to survive a near fatal car crash. Thankfully these problems are behind her now and with the release of her first album she seems to be back on the right track.

When the album arrived I thought it was a really nice professional design with some attractive photos of Amanda. The album was recorded in Belfast and mastered in Nashville. I was pleased to see a lyrics booklet is included as well because I like to read the lyrics to discover the subject matter of the songs. The album is called Grow which just about sums it up. If there is a theme to the album it is all about growth I suppose because I think you could say that these are mainly songs of experience, dealing with relationships, learning from mistakes, moving on, self-belief, following your dreams and personal growth in general. I think in that respect I can understand why she cited Joni Mitchell as a very early influence.

Grow (Intro) is very stirring because it features the Pledge Choir of 21 singers and is a very uplifting start to the album. I wished it went on a bit longer. Then it is the very soulful Stop which Amanda wrote with Michael Mormecha. In Amanda’s singing I think I can detect the influence of great soul singers such as Aretha Franklin and Etta James. If You’d Only Let Me is co-written with Ben Shive and is more upbeat. You Blew It as you can imagine is about the end of a relationship and is quite funky and the brass section are used to good effect. That song is written with Jon Tiven as is the following song called Show Me. If I Should Fall features some great bluesy guitar by Paul Tierney who also helped write the song. Another great song called Reach follows which Amanda wrote all on her own. If you scroll down you can see a nice video of this song. Then Notion which she wrote with Paul Tierney.

Most of the songs so far have been about relationships but Melodies seems to be about finding redemption in the healing power of music. I really like the brass section on this song. Big Strong Man is a complete change and I think on first listen it is the most catchy and accessible song on the album and was released as a single I believe. The sort of song that Imelda May or Camille O’Sullivan might do. Right Now is another song that you might fancy having a dance to. After a few listens I think Ready might be one of my favourite tracks. It is all about getting on with what you really want to do and not be distracted from your goal. The backing singers are used to good effect on this song. The album’s closing song, the title track Grow is really bluesy with Paul Tierney’s guitar sounding great and it brings this really satisfying album to a close.

If you like Soul, Motown, Jazz or Rhythm & Blues then this could be just the album for you. Thank you very much Amanda St John and a big hand for the band and anyone else associated with creating this most enjoyable album.

You can read more about Amanda on her Facebook page here-

And this is Amanda's Website-

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