Hollie Smith: Humour and the Misfortune of Others (EMI)

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Hollie Smith: Before This Day is Gone
Hollie Smith: Humour and the Misfortune of Others (EMI)

This can be extremely brief given that Smith's story, travails and so on have been much canvassed. But what hasn't been said too often or too loudly is that while her previous album Long Player sold exceptionally well it came encumbered with two shortcomings which probably didn't go unnoticed by those at Manhattan/Blue Note with whom she parted company.

It lacked coherent songs (aside from Don McGlashan's Bathe in the River obviously), and she was prone to start at the top of her over-emoting range and try to move up from there. Soulful ululation has its place but usually it is in the service of the song, not as a substitute for one -- and that's what that album sounded like to these ears.

That's not a popular opinion to hold given the album was much loved by some (and bought by 30,000 New Zealanders), but let it be said that this new one suffers from no such problems.

It is a powerful, cathartic and soulful album and songs like Humour bristle with slinky energy and power. There is also real emotional drama here (the Aretha-like piano ballad Finding Home, the guitar-slashed blues of Let Me Go) and it is now her delicious and deliberate understatement which allows that terrific voice to have necessary counterpoint when she takes off on sky-scaling flights.

Wonderful album on every front. She should be clearing a space on the mantelpiece. 

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