Tuesday, 5 April 2011

Sophie Barker, Seagull


You know Sophie Barker. You have relaxed with her, fallen asleep with her, swung in hammocks whilst looking at the stars with her. She is the voice behind Zero 7’s In The Waiting Line and her voice wholeheartedly justifies the tag ‘gorgeous’.

She has also sung with Groove Armada and Muki but more recently her attention has been on finding her own organic sound. After Lullaby an album of songs for children, she has returned to the studio, guitar in hand, with a full band.

Seagull is what has emerged.

I was fortunate enough to gain entry to a special invite only gig upstairs at Ronnie Scott’s last night for a first listen to the album and to see Sophie and the band performing live.

As I waited outside for my plus one I noticed that most of the people attending were clearly friends of Sophie. It is always a worry when you have a friend who is a musician (or actor, or director for that matter) as inevitably you are going to be asked to come and watch them and it may involve a degree of forcing a smile. It is a little like going to the wedding of a good friend who is marrying someone you just don’t get – you will go along to support your mate, but you may not particularly enjoy the experience. Obviously this hasn’t happened to me, but you know where I am coming from.

Fortunately, Sophie Barker has a rare and splendid talent, and her friends probably find themselves fighting for tickets whenever she announces a gig or some new material.

Seagull is a finely crafted album. 10 songs, each one giving off the impression that these are keepers. This is an album that you are going to play and connect with on first listen, it is an album you just know you are going to be friends with for a long time.

Sophie has an astonishingly beautiful voice. Is has power and grace that resonates on every song and it is the kind of voice that makes you stop whatever you are doing and just enjoy.

She is also a very fine songwriter indeed. Seagull is out in May and deserves to reach a significant audience. Comparisons with Zero 7 and David Ford are not unfair as it has such a fluid and welcoming element of ‘chill’ to it, but it is also a distinctive and bold musical statement. Her eight strong band are clearly all outstanding musicians and Sophie has given them music to embrace their skills. Strings, keys, plenty of guitar, (some horns on the album), and some rich harmonies all fuse together in a relaxing and joyful embrace.

I already have some clear stand out favourites. Say Goodbye, which has already been subject of remix excitement, charms with its keyboard led opening and extremely catchy chorus. Bluebell, perhaps the most ‘upbeat’ on the album is a romantic delight that could and should grace many a wedding in the years to come. Insight, a soulful, bluesy number takes the listener inside Sophie’s thoughts ‘I listen to the words of a poet, when I really want an action man instead’. They are all worth your time, and I am pretty sure my faves will chop and change in the weeks to come.

Seagull is filled with delightful numbers and is the understandably perfect vehicle for Sophie and her vast talent.

Seagull is a relaxed masterpiece that I sincerely hope you make a point of searching out. And as for Sophie and the band live, brilliant, find out when she is playing and get yourself down there.

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