Lauren Calve “Wildfire” (Independent, 2020)

Lauren Calve’s music is at the bluesy, rockier end of the Americana spectrum. Here you will find riffing electric guitars, on-the-beat drumming, pulsing basslines and most notably Calve’s powerful singing. Her voice combines projection and emotion throughout the seven songs in her `Wildfire’ EP.  The rock and roll pieces include the title track; a song of lust that Calve courageously admits is full of silly metaphors. `Shock Time’, based on Woody Guthrie’s journals, reflects on the appropriate reaction to political change.  `New Blues’ has a rolling beat, but is a wry look at the world of online dating. `On and On’ intentionally, and successfully, replicates the sound of Wilson Pickett and the Muscle Shoals era.

The EP also includes `Better Angels’. This was originally inspired by Lincoln’s inaugural address and displays the full range of her voice, particularly in the chorus. Like so many pieces of music it has developed extra resonance during the pandemic as an unanticipated testament to all those who have shown commitment and kindness. It’s a paean for now that would work well on the rock radio stations.

However, throughout the EP the salient moments focus on her singing. The drums and voice in ‘Shock Time’; the guitar and vocals that introduce ‘Better Angels’, and the final stand-out piece `She Loves Waterfalls’.

Here, the vocal delivery is more restrained, and the open tuning gives a gentle background to the song. It’s based on a photograph of Calve’s mother in front of a waterfall looking happy despite adversity. The lyrics move towards the poetic as the central character travels through a conventional day towards a melding with the world; “As her heart crashes over the side / She becomes a waterfall”. With this piece, it feels like that voice has got space to breathe and time to concentrate on meaning.

`Better Angels’ is an EP and not an album, so there is not the same opportunity to showcase a variety of material. Calve clearly loves that bass and drum backbeat but `She Loves Waterfalls’ indicates there is more here than rock and roll; she can encompass the sorrowful and melodic as well.

Rock and roll with an emotive final piece
6/10

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