Tuesday 24 October 2017

Her voice is big enough for stardom

John Meagher

John Meagher

album of the week

lianne la havas

Is Your Love Big Enough?

(Warner Bros)

HHHHI

Bagging an appearance on Jools Holland's long-running TV series can work wonders for fledgling acts. Just ask KT Tunstall, who was unsigned when she was booked on the show, or Villagers who, at that point, were little-known outside Ireland.

Now, it's the turn of 22-year-old Londoner Lianne La Havas to enjoy the Jools effect.

Not only did the former Paloma Faith backing singer's sultry, evocative vocals mark her out as one to watch for tastemakers of the increasingly influential BBC Sound Of poll, but her performances so impressed Bon Iver -- who was also a guest -- that she landed a support slot for his remaining tour dates in the US.

Fast forward eight months and her eagerly-anticipated debut album does not disappoint.

Everything hinges on La Havas' voice -- and it's truly a thing of rare beauty.

She displays an impressive range -- yet doesn't feel the need to indulge in vocal gymnastics.

There's nothing showy about the way she sings -- each note is at the service of songs which, for the most, concern broken relationships and troublesome exes.

This is well traversed terrain, but as Adele's record-breaking run has proved, the record-buying public can't get enough of it.

La Havas has spoken about the influence of confessional songwriter, soul singer Jill Scott -- check out her cover of Scott's He Loves Me on YouTube -- and one can detect her influence here, not least on the mesmerising, languidly arranged opener Don't Wake Me Up and on the soulful, slow-burning title track.

Elsewhere, the heart-rending piano-led Lost and Found perfectly compliments La Havas's fragile singing, while the delightful Au Cinema offers a beguiling snapshot of early love.

In places, La Havas' songwriting comes up short -- and there are times when the material simply fails to showcase her vocals, a problem also experienced by that other fine young British soul singer Corinne Bailey Rae.

Yet, such quibbles are unlikely to detract from what is an impressive debut.

Once La Havas has seen a little more of life and sharpened her songwriter's pencil, there's every chance she can deliver something very special indeed. For now, this accomplished debut is more than enough.

KEY TRACKS Don't Wake Me Up; Au Cinema; Is Your Love Big Enough?

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