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Little Dreamer

4.5 out of 5 stars 22 customer reviews

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Audio CD, September 16, 2008
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Editorial Reviews

2008 debut album from Peruvian-born but Bristol-raised singer/songwriter Beth Rowley. Produced by Steve Power, Kevin Bacon and Jonathan Quarmby (Blur, Richard Hawley) and co-written by saxophonist Ben Castle - son of the legendary Roy Castle - the album's faultless mix of smoky Blues, Soul and Gospel sees Rowley take inspiration from classic artists such as P.P. Arnold and The Ronettes, while managing to give her unique sound a modern twist. 11 tracks including the single 'Oh My Life'. UCJ.
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Product Details

  • Audio CD (September 16, 2008)
  • Number of Discs: 1
  • Label: Verve Forecast
  • ASIN: B001AVTLG2
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (22 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #174,918 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)

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Top Customer Reviews

Format: Audio CD
Beth Rowley's voice isn't as distinctive as the voices of her nearest British pop `rivals', Amy Winehouse and Duffy, that's not necessarily a bad thing but it does mean that some of her songs, such as "So sublime", can seem a bit bland.

What singles her out from her contemporaries is that as well as singing pop and 'reconstituted 60s soul' she also sings `da blues'. However, she's no Susan Tedeschi and I find that her take on Blind Willie Johnson's "Nobody's fault but mine" is a bit dull. Similarly, her producer has taken British blues singer Jim Crawford's "When the rains came" - which Jim recorded with just his guitar and voice - added a full band with Hammond organ, slide guitar and gospel backing singers to turn a masterpiece of understatement into overblown mediocrity. She's not exactly ruined a great song (that would be perfect for a cover by Joe Cocker) but she's missed all the subtleties of the song and its original performance. I also find the modern blues "One cloud" to be pretty average.

I think that when she leaves the blues behind she's a lot better, "Sweet hours" and "Oh my life" both work perfectly as modern pop/soul, as do the gospel-influenced "Almost persuaded" and the reggae version of Dylan's "I shall be released". The real revelation for me was her duet with Duke Special on Willie Nelson's "Angel flying too close to the ground" where her voice is thoughtful and vulnerable, and which for me was one of her best vocal performances.

It's commendable that Beth and her producers have tried to include different types of music into the mix of her debut CD but I feel that for much of the blues-based material her voice can't really carry the songs and their arrangements.
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I had a hard time with this album. While I enjoyed her rendition of "Nobody's Fault But Mine" and liked "Beautiful Tomorrow" a great deal some of the songs left me feeling flat. I couldn't stomach "I Shall Be Released" though I am a huge fan of Bob Dylan and that may have had an influence on that. It is without a doubt the biggest skip on this album for me.

That out of the way what I did like the most about Beth was not some stunning originality but the honesty with which songs were approached. I don't think that there was a point where the artist was doing anything less than trying to put her own point on songs, like "When The Rains Came". While I didn't personally care for it because I found it put too much before the power of voice; the most important thing to me in this genre of music, I thought that it was a well made effort. Her more country influenced songs were pleasant but nothing spectacular, and ultimately I think I may have been happier downloading the songs that I really enjoyed and forgoing the entire album.

I like Beth Rowley's voice, and I like what she is trying to do with well loved and known songs. However, while I appreciated her efforts I wasn't a fan of much of this album because it didn't appeal to my personal taste in music as a whole. In addition I felt in certain instances she (and her studio) was herself unsure of where to go forward and that indecision was clear in how songs were presented. This doesn't mean I don't want to hear more of her in the future, I think it would be a shame if this is the only album she produces and appears solely in tracks on the An Education OST. She has a lot of potential, and it was an ambitious first effort to try to span similar but very different styles of music.
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Format: Audio CD
Though born in Peru, Beth Rowley is of British stock and has lived in Britain since her parents returned home when she was two. Beth grew up listening to many different styles of music thanks to her parents' eclectic musical tastes and this is reflected in her music. As a singer-songwriter, Beth has co-written five of the songs here, often with the help of Ben Castle. Ben (son of Roy Castle) is a jazz saxophonist who has worked with Jamie Cullum. The other six songs are covers but Beth has chosen them well. I'd be very surprised if you've heard more than about four of them by other artists at the very most.

The set opens with a traditional song (Nobody's fault but mine). Beth's bluesy voice is perfectly matched to this bluesy song that sets a high standard for the rest of the album, which maintains that high standard throughout.

The next two tracks (Sweet hours, So sublime) are among the original songs, with the latter being the second single from the album, released just a week before the album itself. The release of the first single (Oh my life, which is track 7 here) preceded the album by a full three months but failed to chart.

The fourth track (I shall be released) might be the most familiar song that Beth covered for this album, it being one of Bob Dylan's classic songs. Beth opted to give it an upbeat reggae treatment that may be slightly at odds with the lyrics but nevertheless works well.

The next three tracks feature two more brilliant original songs (Only one cloud, Oh my life) sandwiching a cover of When the rains came, written and originally recorded by British blues singer Jim Crawford. I confess that I've never heard of him before but if all his songs are this good, one wonders why he isn't better known.
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