Natalie Prass couldn't have chosen a better home than the Spacebomb Records imprint to take forward her music. It is label run by her school friend Matthew E. White who recorded one of 2013's best records, the brilliant "The Big Inner" that harked back to the great days of Stax records. It has a recording studio in Richmond Virginia, with the idea being that artists signed to Spacebomb will utilise all these musical facilities including the house session players. Prass herself is a classic singer songwriter. She does not possess the biggest voice in terms of musical thump but the sheer golden sweetness that emanates from her vocals more than compensate for this.
This debut album is a hybrid between the musical ethic of "Dusty in Memphis" combined with the more fragile soundscapes of artists like Julia Holter and Vashti Buynan. It is an heartbreak album detailing with love gone wrong and imploding. Throughout the musicianship is impeccable yet this is is because the songs are so good. Prass has assembled a suite of nine tracks which are confessional in nature but remain up-lifting. Opener "My baby don't understand me" is an utterly gorgeous tale of breakup where Prass forlornly questions "Where do you go, when the only home that you know Is with a stranger". This is all set against the backdrop of a soul stew of gentle horns. it is followed by the funkier more pop orientated "Bird of Prey" which again is beautifully paced as the Spacebomb musicians colour in the song with swirling organs and the economical use of horn. This mixture of musical flourishes and Prass sweetness is epitomised on "Your Fool" a song which sounds structurally simple but achieves a melancholic pop bliss that many more established artists never reach. There is also variation with the ethereal Christy" heading off into territory where Joanna Newsom is currently the major landowner. Others like "Why don't you believe in me" and "Never over you" are hewn from a classic country soul template and are effortless. Best of all is "Violently" a slow burn that is near to perfection, quite how this slight 28 year old woman conjures up some of that power that was at the heart of "Otis Blue" is a miracle. "Reprise" alternatively is softly spoken and more instrumental infused version of the earlier "Your Fool" but distinctive enough to stand in its own right. One small misstep could be the closer "It is you" which on first listens jars as a slice of Disney-esque schmaltz amongst the sweet soul demanding a certain mood to fully appreciate its charms.
Natalie Prass and the Spacembomb collective have again proved that it is possible to delve into a well known musical tradition whilst infusing it enough modernity to be highly relevant thereby pushing that same tradition in a forward direction. As stated it would be easy to argue that with all the consummate musicians present that it would be difficult for Natalie Prass to record a bad record. Looking through another lens however it is clear that that Natalie Prass inspired these players with her music and they complimented her beautiful vision. This is a truly great debut album and one which you will want seek out post haste.
Review by Red on Black