Friday, 3 April 2015

Leigh Harris - House of Secrets, album review



In Charge

I’ve just come across this wonderful singer and her 1999 album, and she is perhaps better known by those who do know as co-founder of band Little Queenie and the Percolators, or as stated on both her Facebook and LinkedIn pages: the head motherfucker in charge.

On this first of three, I think, solo albums she sings with a voice that should be so much better known – it is brilliant – and at times she has that pure clarity of Karen Carpenter and/or Linda Ronstadt, yet she can be sassy and soulful as well.

The songs on this album offer an eclectic range of writers: there’s herself, Jagger/Richards, Brian Wilson, Ray Davies, and John Magnie from the Percolators. The Magnie opener Like a Ghost is a blissful example of that pure vocal, and a beautiful song with angelic harmonies. The second Incommunicado is another Magnie penned song with a slow TexMex feel in the use of accordion and trumpet, Harris singing sublimely again.

Third Paint This Town is a gorgeous blues ballad – the Carpenter tone most evident here – where she is accompanied by pianist Joshua Paxton. It’s fourth Devil Jumped a Rabbit where the sass and soul comes into the vocal mix, and this is supported by an atmospherically bluesy organ and lead guitar respectively puffing and fuzzing their grooves. A great track.

The folksy Stones’ Back Street Girl gets an almost parodied cover by Harris with the accordion surviving from that original, but the ‘bong-bong’ pop-popping of the chorus is an interjecting and closing hoot, quite operatic in its pitch and precision, further demonstrating the glory of Harris’ voice. Her cover of Brian Wilson’s Caroline No is a more reverential treatment, simplified to the solo vocal and the gentle melody, retaining the horn as yet again an echo of the original.

I’ll finish with a mention of Harris’ self-penned Crazy Mirrors which exudes the Southern soul vocal of Bobby Gentry, and this exemplifies the range she possesses whilst always retaining that pure beauty in its tone. A gorgeous album.


As I was writing up this post  I was also listening again to the last track Midnight Star and I have to refer to its close where there is a funky, pulsing out, and Harris hums above this in a rising climb of sheer vocal beauty.

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