Laura Fell “Safe from Me” (Balloon Machine Records, 2020)

It’s fair to say that 2020 has been a pretty tough year for all, so we might all be able to benefit from seeing a therapist right now; step forward London-based Laura Fell with her debut album. As a psychotherapist by day, she is sharing some of her wisdom, alongside her own journey of self-discovery – despite people assuming she already knows all the answers.

Fell’s gentle and ethereal vocals draw you in from the opening of the first song, ‘Glad’; it’s a heartfelt tale based around Fell’s own experience with her parents’ divorce, but written from the perspective of one of said parents. The final verses are especially moving, an imagined moment of reflection from one of her parents in the years ahead, now able to see the time they were married as a positive experience (“And then, when you’re quietly sat / And your mind might travel back / I hope you’ll just be glad / For all you have, and had”). ‘Bone of Contention’ is musically soft but lyrically angry. “And I’ll ask you to spare me / Your bullshit about being betrayed / And to give you the benefit of the doubt / I’ll assume that you lie when afraid,” spits Fell towards the third person in a love triangle who manages to leave unwounded.

On ‘Cold’, we find Fell struggling with self-doubt and finding it hard to use her therapist credentials as a tool for change in her own life. “And I can’t find the answers for myself / It’s easier to help somebody else,” she dispares against gentle, choppy percussion. ‘Left Foot / Right Foot’ is a duet with the co-writer of the song, musician and producer Gus White. Dancing metaphors are cleverly employed to convey a less than perfect relationship (“Moving in and out of time / Stepping on your toes / I’m sorry about me / And these stubborn ways of mine”), and smooth harmonies are provided by Fell as White takes more of the lead vocal duties – until their vocals overlap on the final verse, conveying two people who can’t stay on the same page.

‘Every Time’, with its strong opening base, is a romanticised look at a past relationship (“And sometimes in my mind / I’ll have you tell me how you feel / Tell me how so little since has felt real”), while the fittingly softer ‘Until Now’ is about opening yourself up to love and being vulnerable in a present relationship (“And until now you’ve hidden behind humour / With me / And I’ve come to know / You’ll feel it, but won’t ever say / I hope that’s different someday”). The gentle ‘Safe From Me’ is a twist on the classic breakup song, reflecting on the loss of self rather than the loss of the other person. The last song, ‘I Didn’t Mean To’ is another relationship based track, but this time we see Fell apologising to a partner over her shortcomings: “If I made you feel like you were wrong / It never left me feeling right / I was blind to the beauty of it all / And did I make you feel alone?” she sings utterly hauntingly, reaching right down into your soul.

Calling this album a passion project for Fell might be an understatement: she poured her heart into making it happen, holding down three jobs whilst making it, and casting a plethora of musicians to give it the sound and scope she wanted – more than that of simply an acoustic guitar. It’s pleasing to hear that her vision has been realised and that her determination has paid off, rewarding the listener with not only the kind of wise reflection you might expect from someone with her day job, but also with a raw and unfiltered vulnerability that cuts through the noise.

A worthwhile passion project with the bones of something great within
7/10

Author: Helen Jones

North West based lover of country and Americana.

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