Joan Armatrading

Not Too Far Away

(BMG)

One of our leading and most grounded singer-songwriters returns with a brand-new set of songs. Armatrading remains the illuminator of human dilemmas, the midwife of melodies. Her subject matter never seems to stray too far from the personal, the heartfelt, the relatable. Particularly the latter. But more heavyweight than Morisette, less trippy than Bush and – usually – less morose than Chapman, Joan has her own place in the music world. I say world and not business because Armatrading though sociable never seems to be all that ShowBiz. Any more than, say, Chris Rea or Judie Tzuke. An enduring fanbase seems to endorse this stance…

I Like It When We’re Together is a single, I believe. An accompanying booklet has all the song words and credits Joan as playing virtually everything you hear. Andrew Skeet string orchestrations are included at times. This lead cut gets under way with acoustic guitar chording and quickly settles into a declaration of lasting love. Such frankness is way beyond a songwriter like me who as to hide in narratives and ruses. Armatrading has never had a problem with the direct hit of feelings expressed. It’s a catchy tune, for sure. Something about the cadences reminds me of Cat Stevens, but no doubt Joan will put me right if we meet!

Still Waters takes an emphatic beat to paint its picture, before a clever polyrhythmic slant takes hold by which time the song is swaying with real purpose. I would have flanged the bass for a bit of fluidity. On to No More Pain with its rolling piano and regal pacing. It concerns drawing strength in troubles, very identifiably Armatrading with a strong and defiant vocal delivery. Cover My Eyes is not about Nick Knowles TV quiz show hosting, but a moody semi-funk musing with splashes of acoustic guitar, all over a martial shuffle. Real yearning present here. The biggest favour a person can do to oneself is eliminate the poison of jealousy, so this is one frank admission. Respect!

Invisible has the subtitle Blue Light is a dubby, punch of a tune. Maybe the best song here, for this listener. Certainly a highlight and my guess is that someone may have been absorbing Grace Jones? The wah guitar is pretty Compass Point… Not Too Far Away is a beautiful 12 string ballad that warms the soul, the arrangement atmospheric. A lovely piece and surely a future live favourite. Any Place has a hint of Arthur Lee and Love in the chording and hard tempo, again it’s catchy and sounds like a set-starter to these ears.

Always In My Dreams goes for piano-in-the-clouds for a start, a declamatory bit of singing that verges on the hymnal. This Is Not That is defined mid-tempo guitar rock with a smidgeon of HiLife perhaps, the closest our star gets in mood to later Paul Simon. A great lyric. One of the set’s highlights and a good encore due its uplifting beat. Matters finish with Loving What You Hate and its choppy funk setting. Is that a clavinet? Joan sounds a bit wound-up but as ever soulful.

A fresh-sounding clutch of songs which point to some good live shows, upcoming.

Pete Sargeant



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(Many thanks to Judy T)

Joan Armatrading's new studio album 'Not Too Far Away' is out now on BMG.  

Her first single from the album 'I Like It When We're Together' is also out now on BMG and you can watch the official music video in this article.

In addition, Joan Armatrading will be embarking on an Autumn 2018 UK Tour. 

For tickets and more information visit her official website here: http://bit.ly/2JrAtiW

Joan Armatrading