Winner of a PROG award the year after receiving their Limelight award with The Beatrix Players alerted our attention to Ms Amy Birks. We take a listen to her debut solo album.
Release Date: 3rd April 2020
Label: Mab Records
Formats: CD / LP / dl
She’s called her fledgling solo work: ” a really personal and full-on experience that has pushed me further, emotionally, technically and lyrically than I ever thought possible.”
It’s a record that finds her being able to call upon guest appearances from a raft of luminaries including Steve Hackett, John Hackett and Caroline Lavelle.
She’s also namechecked a number of strong female writers in music and literature who’ve been significant influences: Joni Mitchell, Natalie Merchant, the Brontes and Daphne du Maurier; the latter being the inspiration behind Jamaica Inn.
Almost inevitably Ms Amy has been the a Godsend to those who’ve been in search of the ‘new Kate Bush’. Heralded by a wave of supporters whilst being embraced by the prog field in much the same way the search to find a ‘new Dylan’ was part and parcel of the seventies and beyond. Fellow trailblazers, with the emergence of iamthemorning and Marjana Semkina and Chrissy Mostyn of The Blackheart Orchestra, have of course been at the forefront of the genre.
Regardless of all the talk, the music is what we’re about and All That I Am & All That I Was is a confident set of eleven songs built around subtle and impassioned string arrangements. That and a gossamer touch. Indulge me if you will, but like Genesis’ Trespass but without the buildup to the violence of The Knife.
Not Every Night is a beauteous as you can get. And all in a couple of minutes of delicate piano that might just challenge the Blackheart’s Ennikur as a heartbreaker. Less is more at its most effective. See if you can hold your breath that long.
The Hackett nylon guitar on I Wish adding a Mediterranean vibe with the gentle patter of percussion. It adds a rare uptempo distraction as we head for lighter moments on Say Something. A gentle swing and faint woodwind contributing to the creation.
All The Fault Of The Lady Anne sees a diversion into a stately folk styled narrative with some operatic touches. Conjuring images of woodland glades lit by hazy rays of sunlight, it’s the one that’s perhaps at the heart of the album art. A mixture of the renaissance and nineteenth-century embroidery. “Try to stop a train when its downhill all the way” emphasising the nature of something beyond repair that alludes to Anne Boleyn.
Once more, strings swell and die and provide an undercurrent that rarely breaks beyond an admirable restraint.
An undoubtedly refined and sophisticated debut that’s enabled Ms Amy Birks to embark on the path to become the writer that she’s been wanting to be.
Listen to Jamaica Inn here: