London-based singer, musician and songwriter Fini Bearman has a history of fine recordings, notably 2014's Porgy And Bess
(F-ire Records) and 2016's Burn The Boat
(Two Rivers Records), which featured her exquisite "I'd Rather Have The Rain." La Loba
is her fourth studio album and her first duo recording, featuring the cellist Zosia Jagodzinska. Just two performers, but with a sound that has all of the fullness and tonal variation of a much larger ensemble.
On La Loba
, Bearman plays most of the instruments herselfshe lists eleven in the sleeve notes, including tenor sax, bass, glockenspiel and spoons, before adding "etc etc. She took on the role of producer, wrote all of the songs, arranged the cello parts in collaboration with Jagodzinska, designed the sleeve and created the artwork. The acoustic guitar is the dominant of Bearman's instruments, played fingerstyle and giving songs such as "Beholden" a contemporary folk feel: most of the other instruments are used sparingly. The album's most distinctive instrumental sound, key to evoking its many moods and sensations, is Jagodzinska's cello. Whether she's partnered with nothing more than Bearman's voice or blending together with overdubbed vocals and multiple instruments ("My Ideal" ), Jagodzinska's playing is sympathetic and imaginative.
Bearman has a distinctive voice, although for brief periods, no more than a few seconds at a time, it bears an uncanny resemblance to Hissing Of Summer Lawns
(Elektra Records) period Joni Mitchell
notably on "I Deserve," where her layered backing vocal also has hints of Mitchell. For the most part, however, Bearman's vocal style is recognizably her own: her voice can shift effortlessly from a whisper to a cry, her diction is always crisp and precise, ensuring that the lyrics at the center of each song are communicated with the clarity they deserve. Always, each note, each word, is delivered from the heart. "Empty" is one of the finest examples of Bearman's talents, a gentle tune played by cello and guitar, with backing vocals adding support to her melancholy lead voice. Ostensibly about leaving a house where she ..." chose the colors of the walls, the furniture too," the words also seemingly tell of the end of a relationship, the emptying of emotions as it comes to a close "And there's nothing here to be done or said ... the sweetest pain of all and I've been here before." That's just one song, but La Loba
maintains this high standard across all of its tracks, emphasizing the strength of Bearman's growing body of work.
And We Climb; My Ideal; Beholden; Empty; Endless Clouds; Song 40; La Loba (Intro); La Loba; I Deserve; Talk;