Ten Albums of 2019 Recommended – No. 6

Rosalie Cunningham – Rosalie Cunningham

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Music Circus Ringmistress

Rosalie Cunningham’s eponymous album is a delightful showcase of her distinctive and fulsome talent as multi-instrumentalist, vocalist and songwriter. The psychedelia of her significant time as leader of superb band Purson is still wonderfully evident, but there is a coherence of the music circus to this fine set of tracks, and by this I mean a theatre of gypsy folk to psyche pop elements merging in the big tent circle of this performance.

In many music reviews I often cite precursor touchstones and then either hasten to confirm the intended compliment or apologise for what are probably familiar [perhaps ad nauseam] references to musical echoes. Unabashed now, I simply reflect on hearing forebears like Clear Light and early Doors, then Affinity as well as one cosmic waft of Hawkwind opening a track, and also a favourite influence mentioned by Cunningham herself in the album’s inner sleeve, the Beatles, and by implication, George Martin.

All these inspirations coalesce in Cunningham’s assured interpretive flair, a musical focus she has honed with instinct and determination throughout her musical career and celebrated in this solo album.

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Rather than work chronologically through individual songs, I will highlight the collective pulses of this record from happily engaged notes I made on a first listen, starting always with the voice, Cunningham’s fulsome and resonant vocal and the occasional great swathes of warbling perfection and the harmonies quite beautifully expanded and overlapped. There are 60s/70s fuzz buzzes and space-rock backdrops. There is a portentous, punchy start. There are continuous examples of solo excellence in clever guitar leads, a pounding bass, and layered organ swirls.

Instrumentation and genre merge playfully and evocatively, from lounge piano to wah-wah to marching beats to orchestral keyboards/mellotron to the operatic, and on closing tour-de-force A Yarn from the Wheel, spoken narrative and rousing screams.

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