Bella Gaffney “Reflections”

Independent, 2023

A fine blend of original and traditional songs from Bella Gaffney of The Magpies in her first solo venture, showcasing her exceptional guitar, banjo, and vocals.

Artwork for Bella Gaffney album "Reflections"‘Reflections’ is the first solo release from Bella Gaffney, singer and multi-instrumentalist from Bradford, West Yorkshire, and a member of the well-regarded folk trio ‘Magpies’. Playing guitar, banjo, double bass, and keyboards, her captivating vocals provide a consistent thread through the ten-song collection, five original compositions, four arrangements of traditional songs together with her cover of ‘No Ash Will Burn’, penned by Muscle Shoals songwriter, producer, and artist Walt Aldridge, father of Hannah Aldridge. It is on this track, with Gaffney’s guitar, banjo, and double bass joined by Holly Brandon on the fiddle that her Americana leanings are strongest, but throughout the banjo features prominently, adding colour to both the original and traditional songs.

Gaffney highlights the genesis of the album to collaborations forged during the 2021 lockdown, notably Daniel Webster, who is credited with recording and mixing, and as a joint producer with Gaffney, as well as contributing hand percussion on several tracks. On the traditional song ‘Fair and Tender Ladies’,  with banjo leading the song, Gaffney shares vocals with Sam Kelly,  well known as both a solo artist and for numerous collaborations, here their voices blend beautifully, augmented by Brandon’s fiddle.

Opening track ‘Black Water’, a Gaffney original, is an homage to her Yorkshire roots, its imagery combing the beauty and timelessness of nature with our journeys through life “Black water passes me by/ Old forces bringing new life/ Stepping stones to the other side/ That’s what we need/Another road, another step, another stone/ Taking me back home/ Black water flows/ From the dale to sea/ The water runs from you to me/ The secrets that we keep/ Black water flows”.

On ‘Blood in the Earth’, an original song for our times, Gaffney collaborates with Australian singer Leesa Ghentz, addressing the climate emergency, “First came the rain / And it washed the crops away/ And it left the empty clay/ To start again/ Then came the fire/ And it filled the orange sky/ And the flames they grew so high/ It scarred the plains”.

‘Going Through the Motions‘, another Gaffney original, brings a more contemporary take on the travails of everyday life and relationships, as she sings “I take a paracetamol with my cup of tea/ I wonder if you’ll ever try to forgive me/ There’s no guarantee/ I’m going through the motions/ Forgive me/ I’m doing just fine, fine, fine / Yeh I’m doing alright/ My baby wants more, more, more/ As I walk out the door/ I’m going through the motions/ I pick myself off the floor”.

A very fine guitarist, Gaffney’s talents are showcased on her intricate and compelling arrangement of John Martyn’s ‘Seven Black Roses’, with its changes of key and insistent beat. Closing track the traditional ‘Gallows Pole’, well-known for the version by Led Zeppelin, demonstrates her formidable live chops, recorded in concert at FortyFiveVinyl Cafe, York, and building to its climax with her driving acoustic guitar and stomp box, to the evident delight of her audience.

A compelling collection, whose charms grow with each listen.

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8/10
8/10

About David Jarman 116 Articles
Long time fan of Americana genre, from early days of Ry Cooder, through to today's thriving scene. Regular visitor to USA ( Nashville/Austin/Memphis/LA ) live music junkie, I play guitar, mandolin, harmonica, plus vocals, run monthly jam session in Broadstairs
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