2.5 out of 5 Stars
Investigate Magazine – May 2006

If the hype surrounding Corinne Bailey Rae is anything to go by then music promoters have been looking for someone to be titled “the next Billie Holliday” for a while and this gorgeous blues singer appears to be the perfect choice to hang it on. Of course, it’s a big expectation to live up to, so the question is whether the music justifies the comparison.

For my money, Bailey Rae’s debut album is pretty good – not so mainstream that it’s pop music, but a little too mainstream to be straight blues or even soul music. Yes, she leaves all her chart-topping peers behind as far as quality goes, but songs like the albums highlight “Like a Star” don’t appear to have the widespread appeal needed to get to number one.

Admittedly, Bailey Rae does have a remarkable voice, and the songs featured on this album have been designed to play to that strength. But she reminds me more of artists like Morcheeba, Macy Gray or Joss Stone than anything really unique and I think that hurts the albums effect on me personally. This is a solid showing, but definitely one for fans of the blues or soul genres.

4 out of 5 Stars
Investigate Magazine – May 2006

Since the inclusion of his song “Heartbeats” on the great advertisement for Sony’s Bravia television, Swedish-born Argentinean Jose Gonzalez has enjoyed an unlikely rise to stardom and it was that fact which drew me to Veneer, his stunning debut album.

Proving that big sound and numerous instruments are peripheral to good music, Gonzalez has armed himself with nothing more than an acoustic guitar, creating an album of short acoustic pop songs that are beautiful and intriguing, yet remarkably simple.

While Veneer does run at a fast and consistent pace from start to finish, every track is striking in its own right and all offer something different in terms of enjoyment – on tracks like “Remain” and “Hints” it is the Spanish sounding guitar that stands out, whereas on tracks like “Heartbeats” and “Stay in the Shade”, Gonzalez’ haunting vocals shine through. However, the combination of both is what makes this album work and Gonzalez’ talent for finding that balance is what makes Veneer such an amazing achievement.

In fact the only real problem with this fantastic collection of songs is that the album is far too short. Oh well, I guess I’ll just have to listen to it more often.

3.5 out of 5 Stars
Investigate Magazine – May 2006

It has been 2 years since Shawn McDonald’s self-taught debut Simply Nothing hit stores and hot on its heels comes sophomore release Ripen. Has McDonald’s sound changed? To steal a well-known slogan, the difference is clear.

Much like his debut, Ripen is built around Shawn’s spiritual beliefs and a musical core of simple acoustic guitar and cello. But this album is far more than just that – where Simply Nothing toed a musical line and then stopped, Ripen sees McDonald crossing that line into previously unexplored territory and it is here that the growth in his sound can truly be heard.

That musical growth is plainly obvious on tracks like “Reason”, “Imago” and “Perfectly Done” as McDonald has focused a lot on arrangement this time round, giving Ripen a dynamic that was lacking in his previous work.

Lyrically, McDonald really sticks to familiar themes which I feel hurts a few tracks. McDonald also has a habit of reverting to the sound he is most familiar with when it feels like he should go in an entirely different direction and that can be frustrating at times. However these are minor slights on a strong sophomore release from this unique songwriter.