Sophie Gault “Baltic Street Hotel”

Petaluma Records, 2024

Echoes of Americana icons in an impressive follow-up album.

Two years after her debut ‘Delusions of Grandeur’, released under the moniker Sophie & The Broken Things, Sophie Gault returns with ‘Baltic Street Hotel’, a worthy follow-up to that well-received entry into Americana consciousness. An honest and reflective portrayal of her experience with Bipolar Disorder the new album contains the same mix of sounds that categorised that debut.

That first album had Gault bringing the expertise of the lauded Ray Kennedy to proceedings and here he takes that influence a step further as producer of an album that has clear parallels with the likes of Lucinda Williams and Patty Griffin, both artists, of course, with feet firmly in the Kennedy camp. Throw in a smidgen of Bonnie Raitt to that mix and you get the idea of what to expect.

On an album comprised of Gault’s own compositions that connection is emphasised by the one cover here, Patty Griffin’s ‘Every Little Bit’. The track was on Griffin’s raw but memorable debut ‘Living With Ghosts’ and Gault’s version, with its sparse guitar riff, pares those rough edges back to give something a tad more mellow and laid back. Gault’s vocals, a constant source of pleasure throughout the album, really does veer into Griffin territory here. It is a fine cover.

The album opens with a rather dreamy, atmospheric number in ‘Over & Out’, a plea for understanding and tolerance accompanied by a reverb heavy guitar. On an album that packs plenty of punch with rockers such as the blistering ‘Poet In A Buick’ and the thumping rhythm of ‘Kick The Devil Away’ that opening track serves, in hindsight, to highlight the diversity that Gault brings to the party.

Christmas in The Psych Ward’ follows ‘Devil’ in tone and style and sees Gault delving deep into her personal history as she crystallizes an experience under psychiatric care before pursuing her music career. Straightforwardly titled it may be but it is a scorching slice of rock and roll that, in a little over three minutes, brings poignant observations and themes of isolation, hope, healthcare and spirituality.

The album closes much as it started with a Gault reprising her best mellow ‘Williams’ with the optimistic ‘Things Are Going Good’. After that hospital stay Gault here reflects here on how far she has come and the joy to be found in the simple things “Things are going good, better than they should. Hurry up and knock on wood, when things are going good.”

It is an apt closing track. Comparisons to Americana icons are easy to make and, if they sound lazy, it is only to seduce fans of those aforementioned artists into giving Gault a listen. When the likes of Ray Kennedy choose to work with an artist it should act as its own recommendation. On ‘Baltic Street Hotel’ Sophie Gault builds on the promise shown on that 2022 debut and establishes herself as an artist to be respected in her own right.

7/10
7/10

About Peter Churchill 180 Articles
Lover of intelligent singer-songwriters; a little bit country; a little bit folk; a little bit Americana. Devotee of the 'small is beautiful' school of thought when it comes to music venues.
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Alan Peatfield

I do wonder why reviews offer no track(s) as a reference point.
Just saying.

Jonathan Aird

Sometimes there isn’t anything in our approved formats, and sometimes we…forget. Thus proving we are human…
Fortunately there are Editors around to spend time Fixin’ Things….

Alan Peatfield

Thank you, Jonathan. You are clearly a man with high professional standards!

Jonathan Aird

Honestly, without the pun, probably wouldn’t have happened…. 🙂