Album, Single and EP Reviews


  Contraries by Joanna Chapman-Smith

Contraries cover art

Artist: Joanna Chapman-Smith
Title: Contraries
Catalogue Number: Woundup WU1849
Review Format: CD
Release Year: 2010

I'm having a singer songwriter moment. It's a danger when you are a reviewer. But for every ten Bob Dylan/Woody Guthrie/Seasick Steve clones, there's one gem and that gem is usually a woman. Happily, Canadian Joanna Chapman-Smith is one such gem.

You've probably guessed that the songs will be about the joys of relationships and urban living, and you'd be right too, but the difference here is that Ms Chapman-Smith knows that forced Kate Nash style quirkiness is not the way to go. Instead, she - ably supported by her band The Trust - wraps the songs on this album up in subtle and clever arrangements that reward your attentions. "Arbitrary Lines" best demonstrates the kind of musical flair that I'm talking about but, to tell the truth, nothing here disappoints. As a further example, the whistled intro to "Between the Minds" seems so very appropriate to the intense and elegant lyrics like the soundtrack to the gunfight in a Spaghetti Western.

Pondering further, I reckon the key thing is here is the lack of pretension on show here. The songs are intelligent, musical influences from across the globe abound - Dawn Zoe's accordion made me think of drinking wine in a Paris café throughout -  but you never get the feeling that Ms Chapman-Smith is showing off how clever she is. Her voice exudes a warmth, charm and occasional vulnerability that easily brings you under her spell.

"Contraries" is an endearing and classy album with more than enough depth to give lasting value. So go on, give your ears a treat and reckon on keeping this one in your CD player for quite some time.

Available from CD Baby.

Review Date: May 9 2010