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Sarah Gillespie: Stalking Juliet

Bruce Lindsay By

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Stalking Juliet is the first album from Sarah Gillespie, a UK-based singer and songwriter. Musically and lyrically this record constantly surprises, challenges and rewards in equal measure.

Gillespie has written all of the album's 11 tracks—two of them in collaboration with producer and arranger Gilad Atzmon. The songs have strong melodies and in some cases seductive hooks, but this is not a light and frivolous take on the world. Gillespie gives no indication of self-pity or bitterness but many of the lyrics, as well as some of the instrumental arrangements, suggest an anger about the experiences that have inspired her to write these words. This is by no means a bad thing: the anger is leavened with humor, and produces some memorable lines: in one case, where a character is described as "rolling your eyes like a sugar high child." Gillespie has a powerful voice which eloquently transmits this anger and disdain, and would be far less suited to passivity or self-pity. Titles such as "Big Mistake," "How the Mighty Fall," and "Call Me Stupid, Ungrateful, Vicious and Insatiable" —the latter a co-composition with Atzmon—clearly reflect their lyrical content.

Musically these songs show influences as diverse as country, rock and Middle Eastern styles, while "Houdini of the Heart"—another Atzmon co-composition—could have emerged from a work by Berthold Brecht and Kurt Weill. Atzmon is best known as a saxophonist and, indeed, his sax playing is crucial to the overall feel of much of this album; but here he predominantly plays accordion, with touches of harmonica on many tracks. Billy Adamson's electric guitar is used sparingly but to good effect, particularly on the beautiful "Million Moons," while Asaf Sirkis and Ben Bastin are a key rhythm section throughout.

Tales of lost love, broken hearts, broken promises and, occasionally, true romance, permeate this record. Gillespie delivers the songs with honesty and passion, and even when their meanings are unclear she still creates an implicit understanding of what's going on. Her voice is original, hard-edged much of the time with a husky and seductive tone at the lower end of her range. This is an assured debut from a performer of great potential.

Track Listing: Stalking Juliet; Big Mistake; Close Range; How The Mighty Fall; Malicious Simone; Million Moons; Ahmed and Dangerous; Houdini of the Heart; Don't Be Sorry; Call Me Stupid, Ungrateful, Vicious and Insatiable; Sleep Talking.

Personnel: Sarah Gillespie: vocals, guitar; Gilad Atzmon: accordion, alto and tenor saxophones, clarinet, harmonica; Asaf Sirkis: drums, urdu; Ben Bastin: electric and double-bass; Billy Adamson: guitar; Sameer Makhoul: violin, oud; John Turville: piano; Emma Stockton: backing vocals (2, 5).

Title: Stalking Juliet | Year Released: 2009 | Record Label: Egea Records

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