Being described as “one of the best singer songwriters the UK has to offer” is an oft banded about phrase but in the case of York based songstress Helen Chambers it’s 100% deserved. Having been playing live and touring for 4 years or more now Chambers has finally brought together the tunes that have been wowing crowds nationwide in a neatly packaged and brilliantly recognised record. Describing herself as “folkyish and countryish” it’s fair to say that Chambers will appeal to fans of both genres, particularly those who like their songs to be understated yet beautiful.
Opening with ‘Little Demons’ which tells of temptation contrasted with the safety of home, the album ebbs and flows between sing-along choruses and introspective balladry with effortless ease.
The most remarkable element of the album is Helen Chambers’ vocals; lilting, peaceful, and heartbreakingly delicate they lift the songs away from the record and send them soaring. The best example of this is live favourite ‘Paper & Glue’ as Chambers voice elevates a standard country progression to an emotionally charged song which envelops the listener.
Coming from a punk rock background Chambers has brought several of her favourite musician friends along for the ride with long time pals Kelly Kemp and El Morgan providing stirring backing vocals, double bass from Joe Ginsberg and an extra helping hand from Morgan Brown of Liverpool punks Down And Outs. Long time champion of Chamber’s music and multiple touring partner Chuck Ragan also mucks in with a collaboration on ‘Banners’; Ragan’s whiskey soaked vocal complimenting Chambers perfectly on the albums folkiest moment. The song is a spine-tingling, unaccompanied paean to a lover at sea and represents a genuine high point on an already outstanding record.
Closing out with ‘Steven Patrick’ (it’s not about who you think it’s about) the 10 tracks seem to pass by in a heartbeat and might leave you wanting one more for the road.
Make no bones about it Helen Chambers has presented us with a stand out album in an overcrowded singer songwriter market. Deserving of being seen and heard live you could do worse than have a look inside ‘Penny Arcade’, play the slots, ride the carousel and let this wonderful artist take you whole heartedly.