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GEM ANDREWS —NORTH (Music Square Music)

Berlin-based, Liverpool-born singer-songwriter and a affinity to the North East of England Andrews has come a long way since I first heard her play support at a Jumpin’ Hot Club gig in Newcastle. Andrews’ songwriting has always impressed, but her vocals and poise has now also become a wonderful source of joy, as a greater beauty has joined the depth and passion of her work. 

Ever humble, as she learns her trade Andrews’ latest album offers the honesty and love for her fellow earthlings. The warmth of her reflections on life could well do with the contented found in her own life, and it doesn’t hurt to have a wonderfully talented set of players (in support) perform music sympathetic to her lyrics. 

Players on the record include Nicky Rushton, Sarah Van Jellie, Bernard Wright, Susanne Lambert (from the group, Mush), Chris Hillman, Ed Blazey plus harmony vocals from Sue McLaren and Charlie Hardwick. Sharp and clear throughout, Andrews has here a wonderful piece of work, the love and care put into the album is there for all to see, and likewise treasure.  

Andrews constant weaving of pretty melodies and evocative lyrics ensure the album eases by seamlessly. With more than its share of highlights, the listener is able to let their mind be taken to places she speaks of and on their return feel refocused. 

Songs topping my list include “Sing Your Song”, sweet sounding “Bare” and with a dash to it “Lungs”. Plus the spare and at first gentle “Feather & Skin”, and with it plied in tasty helpings of piano and relentless rhythm it dips deeper than most on the record (its orchestrated surges are of a kind to captivate any audience). On showing much artist flair, Andrews has also put music to Julia Darling’s poems, “Two Lighthouses” and with a gently swaying melody “Straight Lines”; the harmony vocals are as good as any on the record, and that says a lot!

On utilising more swirling pedal steel, and mandolin a country feel swamps genial playful ballad “Two By Two”. While with a greater edge still the listener can’t help but be blown away by Americana gem “Medicate”. Her vocals and instrumental work is top class, and if you are a fan of pedal steel you will droll over the playing. On returning to a more artful style as acoustic guitar, piano and vocal harmonies are her worthy partners Andrews performs a beautiful “Carole”. Before finally calling it a day with superb aversion of Kate McGarrigle’s jaunty, happy go lucky ditty “Come A Long Way".

      Maurice Hope 

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