For those wondering why #TEAMw21 keep making such a fuss about Isabella Coulstock, they need do no more than seek out this EP which catches Isabella at her best playing live in the studio. She has dipped her toe in releasing recordings with a full band, which have both been, fine yet have not quite been able to capture the essence of what it is to see this remarkable talent play live in front of you - this EP most certainly does.
These maybe songs stripped to their very core, just Isabella and her trusty guitar or piano, but don't expect them to be scratchy demos either - this is an artist in their element and the results are naturally masterpieces. The EP opens with "Trouble" one of Isabella's more recent compositions and her debut official single. Playing the two alongside each other is like hearing two different songs entirely.
This latest version brings the lyrics much more to the fore and Isabella's phrasing also helps to bring them more to life
"I'm talking fast, leaned in close
You're all that I want to know about -
So I'm going to listen slow
The moment comes - I'm feeling numb
You're no good for nothing but I think we should give it a go"
There's a greater feeling of warmth in this version, and the "no good for nothing" line more readily ties in with the "Trouble" of the chorus and somehow the opening verse makes the feelings of infatuation seem more believable.
"Who knows where it's going? - I just want to get there first"
There's a sense of I know this is probably wrong but let's see what happens!!
The second track sees Isabella move to piano for "Who Do You Think You Are?" always one of the high points of her live set - taut with emotion. This comes with big dramatic chords and a vocal to die for.
"Who do you think you are?
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?"
The chorus sees the title repeated and then the heartbreaking line
"I told you "I want you, I need you, I love you" delivered in the most exquisite of tones.
There's definitely a sense of bemusement of how to deal with the events that have unfolded.
"How do I sleep at all?
How do I drive away, the love you gave!
When all I do is fall"
One last moment of magic comes in the final chorus as Isabella lets the piano fall away just leaving that magical vocal and if that wasn't enough the emotion in the final trembling three words "I miss you" would bring tears to a statue!.
While many writers naturally write from their personal experiences there is nothing to say that you can't just make stuff up! The next song on the EP "Riverside" #TEAMw21 have waxed lyrical about for many months, as it has the power to hush an audience as they hang on every next word that Isabella will sing. As an idea it is certainly way out there, detailing a place where spirits through the ages will come to meet yet once you step into the world that Isabella magically creates, these spirits will manifest themselves before your very eyes and seem vividly real for the duration of the song.
A slow guitar intro gently guides us in ....
"I am a soldier just passing through - I lay my burden down and I will wait for you
I am a simple girl with nothing left to lose - I won't decide my fate, I'll leave it up to you"
Gradually one by one Isabella builds up a cast of different characters. an old man, a preacher, a stranger and a child.
The chorus sums up this magical world
"Lay down with me by the Riverside, just set me free by the Riverside
Watch them dance across the water, watch their love just growing stronger
I'm with you right now by the Riverside"
Leaving us with a final line of explanation
"We are the ghosts of every life gone by - we're all together now down by the "Riverside"
As the song ends this magical world disappears.
The final song of the EP is "The Road" another of the songs from Isabella's fruitful creative songwriting partnership with ex Blockhead and acclaimed songwriter in his own right Chaz Jankel. It is certainly the most Americana sounding of the collection - the guitar spending the opening 30 seconds or so setting the scene perfectly of open desert plains.
There's undoubtedly a lot of ideas at play here, on a simplistic level "The Road" could be seen as metaphor for life, one on which you can at times get lost. Isabella plays with the imagery of being lost in the desert and of mirages, things not being as they seem.
Isabella as narrator seems to be someone lost , looking to get back on track.
"I'm still looking for the end of the road
I'm still finding a way - a way back home
The chorus both adds to the impression of being lost while also injecting a sense of urgency in that final line that time is slipping away.
"The road reminds me who I am
My soul lies behind me
Buried in this sand
And the engines running low"
The sensation of being fooled by an hallucination comes most vividly in the following lines
"My eyes they deceive me in the summers shimmering haze
The rise of an eagle, an angel with the good Lords face"
It all goes to make a stunning song, almost cinematic in it's outlook, the common thread linking it all together being Isabella's sublime silky voice that soars at times in the most angelic fashion.
This unexpected early Christmas present is most welcome and will allow a wider online audience to finally get to sample this rare and remarkable talent. Isabella has well over 2 hours of this material and in many ways is spoilt for choice as to what songs to release next. The issue to resolve is quite how to get full band versions to carry the same level of intensity that these solo versions do. It's a problem we are sure Isabella will soon unlock and then there will be no stopping up her.