Themes of love, loss, redemption and guilt dominate the records of confessional songwriters. But, when they’re authored by someone born at the cusp of the twenty first century, the results can be a little more startling to fans of the genre. Merseysider Esme Bridie has cut a serious debut album upon which beauty shines through some harsh truths. By Denis Parkinson.
One of my favourite sounds is pouring rain. That feeling of being safe and warm as the sky opens is one of life’s true pleasures. Rain can symbolise rebirth and new beginnings, too, as it washes away the old and sustains the new. ‘Today It Rains’, the debut album from Merseysider Esme Bridie, is indeed something new. Come in, dry off and sit by the fire…
The starting point for these twelve songs is the presence throughout of sublime acoustic guitars. It’s not uncommon for acoustic performances to be overwhelmed by excessive production, but that doesn’t happen here as any additional instrumentation is used to great effect. At the forefront of these songs, however, is the gentle but extremely confident central performance of Bridie. With a voice so controlled and melodic, she never sounds like she’s trying too hard and focus remains on the quality of the delivery. I suspect she could make a lot more noise, but doesn’t have to… realising that such intimate performances draw listeners in.
‘Today It Rains’ has a singer that is singing to you and it would be rude not to listen. Opener ‘Self-Destructive’ is powerful, catchy and sets a high standard that is maintained throughout the record – especially on atmospheric and haunting highlight, ‘Tower of Regret’. There is an impression of wisdom throughout the album, of advice being given to someone, always subtle and accompanied by complex but accessible melodies.
The music is a hybrid of sorts, but its folk, jazz and pop stylings have allowed Bridie to develop her own sound… something new, yet familiar. Clannad might be in there, mixed with a more serene Stevie Nicks, but there’s also a nod to English folklore that sets it off well-trodden paths. The album is a cohesive showcase for the singer’s sophisticated songwriting and an outstanding debut record.
Welcome to your new favourite sound.
Esme Bridie plus support
Saturday, February 10th 2018, 7.30pm
81 Renshaw, Renshaw Street, Liverpool
Pic by John Johnson