Isabella Coulstock - In The Room (Acoustic)
Many of you may have seen #TEAMw21 praising the wondrous talents of Isabella Coulstock however should you have been so inclined to follow up and find out what all the fuss was about, it was very difficult. That situation is now about to change with the arrival finally of a shiny new cd with 5 slices of what makes this lady so special. Equally adept on guitar and piano and armed with a silky smooth voice that can charm or equally shake the rafters if required she is a precocious talent. Once you have seen her live you find yourself humming her songs days maybe weeks later, such is the way that they seep into your psyche and refuse to abate. This is but a soupcon of what Isabella has up her sleeve with a sizeable catalogue just waiting to be recorded and shared.
"In The Room" is an acoustic rather than a full bells and whistles production, so it very much is indicative of what you will get if you see Isabella live, that in itself on each occasion that we've seen her has been very much a moving emotional experience. Her song introductions very often only have tangential links to the song she is about to play and the songs themselves can inhabit their own little worlds created by crafted lyrics that sit on suitably bespoke tunes.
Isabella has mentioned previously that her songs could be about her, possibly about other people or even completely made up, so you have to take each one at face value. It's up to the listener to seek out and discover what each song might be about.
The EP opens with a pointed question "Who Do You Think You Are?", it is one of two songs on the EP that will slightly break the sound format, in that they contain some sweeping strings, but they add such a richness and depth to the overall tracks that no-one is going to quibble about that.
Opening to just a piano and Isabella asking the initial question, the listener is immediately plunged into some sort of relationship crisis
"I don't want to say I miss you - maybe It's a start
Why do we move so fast? -
You wanted to know me - I told you
What more can you ask?"
There's a sense that all is not well, yet from Isabella's side, the cards are on the table
"I told you "I want you I need you I love you"
There's definitely a sense of bemusement
"How do I sleep at all?
How do I drive away, the love you gave!
When all I do is fall"
Whatever the status of the relationship, the emotional vocal of the final "I miss you" leaves us in no doubt what the singer feels. The strings provide a little cinematic style drama to proceedings, as does Isabella's keyboard, but it is the quality and passion in the vocals that steals the show.
In contrast "Broken" is more guitar orientated, commencing with Isabella playing an urgent acoustic guitar to immediately set the scene. It was co-written with Chaz Jankel who transformed Ian Dury's lyrics into the musical
masterpieces they became.
The opening verse suggests a brief romance that never developed further but where each party still harboured feelings for each other
"You were like some overnight sensation
I always thought you were older than you were
I never knew you spent your time just waiting
Cos all you did was leave without a word."
until a chance later meeting
"In a crowded room I see your eyes again
We talked until the night faded out
and I still can't remember what we talked about"
The chorus perfectly sum up that feeling of being lost in the moment - where reason can go out of the window
"All the lights that guide me home were broken"
By rights this should sound a little like a demo, however the additional strings and the sheer quality of the playing and singing elevate it to another level entirely.
"Better Than That" is a tale of following your dreams and defying naysayers, that opens to a quite sombre piano intro.
The chorus is built around parental words of wisdom - closing with a definite affirmation to take forward
"The worlds gonna turn you round
and people they'll bring you down
Time's gonna move to fast
Take a minute take a look and laugh
Don't stop when it all goes bad, my love
You know you're better than that"
The second verse deals with the journey to success , the hard work of playing to empty rooms
"Where the people walk in but they leave just a little too soon"
The second chorus is subtly lyrically different and as Isabella finishes singing, the last few seconds exquisitely allow the sound from the piano to gently dissipate. It is just a piano and Isabella yet as she completes you know you have listened to something truly special.
"Living In A Country Song" bizarrely owes it origins to not wanting to be in a physics exam. From there you have to make the leap to wanting to be somewhere else, to then being in a country song. It's a genre that offers so many opportunities to dive into and escape - "where music always plays along"
"Sometimes I'm born in Tennessee - sitting on a tailgate - a red Chevvy 53"
It allows a certain freedom - She can be honky tonk singer or an old gunslinger as the mood takes her. It's a total flight of fancy of Isabella's creation that becomes vividly real for the duration of the song.
The final track "Westerly Winds" is the most overtly country sounding song on the whole EP, which is a combination of both piano and guitar, possibly reflecting that is was co-written with Mark Flanagan, Jools Holland's guitarist. Following on from the previous song there is undoubtedly a touch of escapism here as well - however this is no idle day dreaming - this is a request to leave on the tide, with that wind propelling on to a new life.
"Can we leave with the tide and the Westerly Winds?"
The chorus ends hinting that this plan has been hatched more than once.
"You won't fool me again"
Despite having been around on the Americana scene for many years this will be the first time that many will have properly got a chance to listen to Isabella - and even now this EP will only initially be available at one of her shows. We can only implore you take the plunge and go see her if only to go and pick up this EP! - you won't regret it
Isabella Coulstock plays The Green Note Camden Town May 3rd and will be supporting Jools Holland later in the year.