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Alice Zawadzki: China Lane

Bruce Lindsay By

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Singer, songwriter and violinist Alice Zawadzki spent five years creating her first album, China Lane. A group of the UK's most respected young musicians joins her to bring her compositions to life—the result is a strong debut, the arrival of a musician with a distinctive voice and songwriting style.

As a writer, Zawadzki doesn't just stick to tales of love or romance. The subject matter of the songs on China Lane moves from the relative ordinariness of daily life ("China Lane") to modern day fairy tales ("Cat") and the power of obsession ("You As A Man"). She has a great ear for the memorable phrase, too: "Tell me you think I'm beautiful. I'll believe you until the dawn" she sings on "Ring Of Fire."

The title track of China Lane is something of a celebration of Zawadzki's time in Manchester. It may lack the glamor of New York or Rome, but the venerable city is readily brought to life by Zawadzki's reference to "the Poundstore and the William Hill." Zawadzski, Emilia Martensson and Fini Bearman combine on "Low Sun: Lovely Pink Light," their wordless vocal creating an ethereal, other-worldly sensation.

This other-worldliness continues into the dark melancholy of "You As A Man"—Zawadzki's beautiful, fragile, vocal partnered by Kit Downes' sparse, understated, Hammond organ on what is the album's most fascinating song. Downes also enlivens "Ring Of Fire" with a fleet-fingered solo then joins guitarist Alex Roth, bassist Andreas Lang and drummer Jon Scott in the song's funky jam style closing section.

Two traditional Sephardic songs—"Indome Para Marsilia" (arranged by Roth) and "Dicho Me Habían Dicho"—sit together in the middle of the album. "Indome Para Marsilia" features Roth's excellent guitar playing. The gentle "Dicho Me Habían Dicho" centers on Shirley Smart's mournful cello and Zawadzki's plaintive singing.

As this album progresses Zawadzki's stylistic range—as a singer and a songwriter—becomes readily apparent. From time to time there are echoes of other, more established, performers but no single point of comparison stands out. On China Lane Zawadzki sounds like Zawadzki—it's a sound that's definitely worth hearing.

Track Listing: Ring Of Fire; Cat; Indome Para Marsilia; Dicho Me Habían Dicho; Low Sun: Lovely Pink Light; You As A Man; China Lane.

Personnel: Alice Zawadzki: vocals, violin, piano; Alex Roth: guitar; Kit Downes: Hammond organ; Andreas Lang: double bass; Jon Scott: drums; Shirley Smart: cello (4); Emilia Martensson: vocals; Fini Bearman: vocals; Eva Thorarinsdottir: violin (7); Steven Proctor: violin (7); Lucy Nolan: viola (7); Tanah Stevens: viola (7); Peggy Nolan: cello (7); Rosie Toll: cello (7).

Title: China Lane | Year Released: 2014 | Record Label: Whirlwind Recordings Ltd


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