Sadie SHHCD2 ……………
A very different world to Downton
Sadie And The Hotheads seemed very much something that would be a fascinating but ultimately short-lived project when the debut album emerged a few years back.
Singer Elizabeth McGovern even then was an Oscar-nominated actress, one-time protege of Robert Redford and the record could have been seen as a musical flirtation, albeit a very creditable and artistically sound one. Yet a second album followed along with hip club dates and now a third, along with festivals and a recent tour with Mike And The Mechanics.
The band’s quirky music – a delicious if indefinable mix of country, folk and pop, where lead bouzouki trades licks with lead guitar -reaches new heights here.
The sound isn’t so much smoothed out as expanded to fill its potential. Those who loved the earlier records will be anything but alienated yet it is much more accessible to new listeners, perhaps even attracting those who know McGovern largely through her transatlantic hit role on ‘Downton Abbey’.
McGovern’s vocals retain their girly, breathless charm but they have also attained a new level of confidence. As always, the central music force is that of country-roots do the Nelson Brothers, Simon and Steve, the bouzouki/guitar boys, who also throw in dobro, banjo, ukulele and mandolin, while dancing piano, acoustic bass and inventive drumming play their part in creating something that’s never quite what you expect itto be. McGovern’s off-the-wall lyrics rarely lend themselves to a conventional song and the Nelsons’ music runs with that, darting from jazz-inflected country to 60s pop at the drop of a hi-hat. You think you’re listening to a conventional balled, yet it turns outto bean inspired reimagining ofthe Bee Gees’ Staying Alive, and there is a dreamy ballad which is actually the Stones’ Wild Horses. Yet the originals are always central to proceedings, from the opener, Everyone’s Got A Song, a celtic-tinged folk romp, to the ethereal, beautiful Fly Away to the dobro-led Get Your Car.
There are several guests on board – Rutherford adds guitar and Gretchen Peters sings on Wild Horses – yet the Hotheads are all that’s needed to keep things going at blistering pace of ideas. A brilliant, imaginative record. Nick Dalton