Saturday, March 18, 2006

Ain't We The Lucky Ones

I've been reeling ever since I left the Mercury Lounge in New York Tuesday night. Irish singer/rocker/songwriter Gemma Hayes did a one-off show there before heading off to Texas for the SXSW festival, and I've got to admit it - I'm head over heels in love. Hayes has the voice of an angel and the songs to back it up, and it certainly doesn't hurt that she is drop dead gorgeous either. A little background on my latest rock 'n' roll crush...

Hayes released her debut album, Night On My Side in 2002 in the UK (2003 in the US), and it was critically acclaimed on both shores. She released her second record, The Roads Don't Love You last year in the UK only. According to her label, there are no current plans to release the new record Stateside.

Her sound ranges from introspective folk rock to uptempo pop rock to full-on, ear-splitting noise rock a la My Bloody Valentine. A few singles from the first album, such as "Ran For Miles", "Back Of My Hand", "Hanging Around" and "Let A Good Thing Go", did well in the UK. I first heard her when a friend, who knows I'm a sucker for a talented female rocker and who also knows Juliana Hatfield is one of my all-time favorite artists, sent me a link to check out the video for "Let A Good Thing Go".

Let A Good Thing Go (video) - Real Audio Media

I was hooked immediately and proceeded to buy her album and all its singles from amazon.co.uk before the video faded to black.

My favorite song on Night On My Side is "Lucky One (Bird of Cassadaga)".

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Lucky One (mp3)

It's only got two lines in it - "Ain't you the lucky one/ Never needing more than this" - repeated like a mantra as Gemma strums disonant chords on her guitar. Slowly the band builds up to a screaming crescendo, with distorted guitars, drums and fuzzed-out bass crashing down in a swirling mess of noise before fading out so that only Gemma's guitar and voice are left to bring the song to a close.

To give you glimpse of the less noisy side of her music, I've posted mp3s of "Ran For Miles" and "November".

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Ran For Miles (mp3)
November (mp3)

Her latest is a little less noise-rock and a little more pop rock than Night On My Side, but still contains enough tempo changes and disonant guitars to appease fans of the debut. In fact, The Roads Don't Love You is the kind of record that grows on a listener after repeated listens.

Hopefully I've made it clear that Gemma Hayes is a talent to be reckoned with. She can soothe you, seduce you, rock you, serenade you and kick your ass many times over during the course of a live set, and Tuesday night's Mercury Lounge gig was no exception. She unasumingly sauntered onto the stage with her band, and after a brief intro to the first song in her lovely Irish lilt, won over the 3/4 full room with one knockout performance after another.

Her band, which was fantastic, played the songs at slower tempos than the studio versions. This made the uptempo songs rock a little harder and the slower songs have a greater emotional impact. Gemma's voice was clear as a bell thanks to a great job by the sound engineer. "Lucky One" was sooooo good live that it gave me chills from the first chord.

Here's the setlist:

Happy Sad
Another For The Darkness
Hanging Around
Easy On The Eye
Back Of My Hand
Two Step
Lucky One
Whole Wide World (Wreckless Eric cover)
Nothing Can
Something In My Way (Gemma solo acoustic)
Evening Sun (Gemma solo acoustic)
Let A Good Thing Go

I took a little video during the show, so here are some clips for your enjoyment.

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Gemma Live 1 (avi)
Gemma Live 2 (avi)

One of my favorite b-sides of hers is "Stop The Wheel", which totally rocks out live. Here's a version from the 2002 Witness Festival.

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Stop The Wheel (live)

Buy Gemma's records here.

For more info check out her official site or her MySpace page.



Blogger heather said...

J, thanks for the Springsteen and Etheridge, nice nice version. :)

March 20, 2006 3:04 PM  

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