Album Review

Saskia – Are You Listening?: Album Review

A collection of truly excellent songs, beautifully performed by an exceptional talent. Saskia asks Are You Listening?

Release Date:  31st July 2020

Label: Private label

Formats: CD, vinyl and all streaming services

Are You Listening? Is the fourth album release from London-based singer-songwriter Saskia Grffiths-Moore and marks a genuine advancement of an exceptional talent.  The album is a collection of the best of her repertoire from the past five years and, unlike her previous output, Are You Listening? is (with the single exception of a marvelous cover of Leonard Cohen’s anthemic Hallelujah) all her own work.  This is an outstanding album, packed with truly excellent songs, all beautifully performed and superbly produced. 

In a previous life, before she decided that her clear, heartwarming voice and her thought-provoking lyrics needed to be shared with the rest of humanity, Saskia was a Harley Street therapist and, boy, doesn’t that experience pervade her songwriting. These songs ripple with a deep understanding of human emotions and an ability to find cause for hope and optimism in even the most distressing situations. Listening to this album is a heartening and reinvigorating experience.

There’s no dazzling soloing or studio trickery here.  The main feature of each song is Saskia’s enchanting voice, enhanced by her own self-harmonies and built upon simple acoustic guitar accompaniment. All subtly enhanced by David Ian Roberts on guitar, Thomas Holder on double bass, Ali Petrie on piano, Gabriella Swallow on cello and on the track These Hours only, a further guitar contribution from Australian singer-songwriter Cooper Lower.  Susanne Marcus Collins has done a wonderful job with the production, delivering a sound that is clean and respectful and fully in keeping with these great songs.

The album starts as it means to go on. A nice acoustic guitar passage leads into the first of the beautiful harmony vocal passages, with Saskia offering a wise piece of advice to those about to listen: “Are you listening? Focus on my voice.”  The sound is mellow and the lyrics are thoughtful; a true taster for the treats to come.

In Time is a beautiful song, packed with more lyrics that cleverly deliver sage advice on moving on without forgetting the lessons of the past and These Hours refers softly and reassuringly to running a stable relation by pragmatically accepting that ups and downs are inevitable.  The Presence is haunting and poignant with lyrics that take on a particular resonance (by coincidence, I’m sure) in these Covid-ravaged times. Write Me a Song is a fantastic number that, with its fingerpicked guitar backing, its lyrical content and its vocal delivery strongly recalls Joan Baez at her peak.  It’s a song that wouldn’t have been out of place in a 60s folk club setting and would be a good contender for the album’s lead single.

Best Of You is the first of the album’s two new songs and it’s a wonderfully contemplative piece of life advice.  I particularly like the line where Saskia tells us “Don’t give in to prejudice – we are all of one kind.”  Indeed we are.  The second of the new songs is Come Comfort Me. It’s probably the darkest song on the album, with lyrics that plead for comfort in a dark, possibly death-facing situation.

After is possibly the most beautiful and malice-free song of parting that I have ever heard.  The lyrics recognize the hurt of separation and express a desire the absorb that hurt but still cling to the optimism of a happy reconciliation.  On Bring It Down, Saskia evokes Joni Mitchell with her vocal delivery of a provocative piece of self-analysis which culminates in the splendid line “Opening up is not so hard.” 

Wash it Away reflects, over a country-style backing of strummed guitar, the fleeting, transient nature of life and bravely faces up to the inevitability of a death that will arrive before we’re ready. It gives the comfort that “We won’t bear our losses, but neither will we keep our gains.”

The album concludes with that restrained, respectful and elegant version of Hallelujah; apparently the first song that Saskia ever sang in public and which has continued to feature in her live set ever since.  It’s a fitting end to an excellent album and I strongly recommend that you check it out.  This lady is poised to be a major star.

Watch the official video for Write Me A Song here:

Saskia online:  Website / Facebook / Twitter / Youtube / Bandcamp

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