Halley Neal ”Beautiful & Blue”

Independent, 2022

An optimistic, pleasant blend of past and present.

Halley Neal is a folk singer in her twenties based in Nashville. She grew up listening to The Beatles Fleetwood Mac and The Grateful Dead. This self-published album certainly has a laid-back seventies feel about it, with lots of close harmonies and jangling guitars which mix beautifully with her lovely soft voice; it’s a very relaxed easy to listen to album.

She made it whilst grieving the loss of her grandmother who was suffering from dementia. Despite the obvious sadness, she has managed to find the whole experience to have a distinct optimistic feeling about it. You can hear that she is searching to feel the positive side of sadness and by and large throughout the album she succeeds, determined to find all that is positive in her world despite the loss: ‘If I don’t try hard enough, I might never have a reason, I might never have a reason to try’.

It begins with the track ‘Someone Else’s daughter’. It asks ‘sliding doors’ questions. Would she be the person she is today? Would she still love the same person she loves today? Would that love be requited? It sets the tone for the whole set, asking searching questions about life, love and more but always seemingly finding positivity .

In places her phrasing is reminiscent of Joni Mitchell; particularly on ‘All We Can Ever Do’. But many other tracks bring the young Janis Ian to mind – ‘I try to be patient, I try to be kind, I try to be the type of person people wanna be and I know that I’ll never be perfect in a straight line’. The standout track ‘She Lives in Me’ is a wonderful and moving observation of seeing a loved one brought down by dementia and how that has such an impact on everyone concerned.

The production is very simple and allows her voice to be the standout feature. It is not an album that will change the world, but it is one that’s worth sitting down and listening to carefully, giving it the time to find the optimism and charm that it has in spades


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