MUSIC REVIEW: Joan Armatrading – Not too far away

Ray A-J October 26, 2018

With her breathtaking performance at The Brighton dome just last week, we take a deeper look at the virtuoso’s fabulous new album Not too far away.

A WEEK AGO, something magnificent happened. Legendary MBE and Ivor Novello award winning musician Joan Armatrading bared her soul to the stages of Brighton. Clasping her guitar, the acclaimed singer songwriter bled the entirety of her latest album Not too far away to the awestruck audience in the Brighton Dome. And, with the wonderful solo renditions of her newest tracks still wriggling in our heads, we take a closer look at the songstress’ 21st album.

Straight away the hearty, uplifting, I like it when we’re together opens the gateway into an acoustic world of wonder. Delicate guitar melodies waltz around the Grammy nominee’s Contralto hum, leaving just enough room for subtle tinges of reverb to enter in, as her follow up to 2013’s jazz infused album Starlight kicks in. Luscious bass riffs interweave with the jangling guitar, bringing us a happier side to Joan’s usually melancholic material.

And these luscious guitars seem to find themselves into yet another brightly euphoric track, once the, now fan-Favourite, This Is Not That comes into play. Adopting breezy piano trills, and jumping guitar chords that bob around each on-beat, the lively song overflows with effervescence. Even Joan’s syncopated calls carry an undeniable sense of bliss. But it’s not too long before the smiling guitars and charming tambourine whispers fade into tears of sorrow.

Misery is my companion,” cries Joan, broken and weary, as the heavy piano chords that surround her become engulfed by their own puddles of reverb and sadness. Bawling almost, the haunting notes of third track No more pain greatly juxtoposes the warm lovestruck poetry of tracks like I like it when we’re together, opting to instead lend the stage to feelings of pain and heart-tearing misery. The solemn track is the only one of the collection that keeps strictly to a piano to tell its woeful tale, avoiding even a hint of the rhythmic glee present across the rest of the album. And it’s a nice palette cleanser of sorts, allowing us to recover from the somewhat repetitive onslaught of guitar jingles and tambourine shakes present across the rest of the album.

Soon after No more pain‘s perfect mirror of desolation, Joan introduces us to a different chapter of pain. With the thudding bass notes and excited clicking drums of second track Still Waters, Joan traces through bitter-sweet memories, masking any inclination of agony with a fast-paced toe tapping beat. And this is something Joan seems to master more than once, dressing up any affliction in fourth track Cover my eyes with sparkling twangs of acoustic guitar.

Produced, programmed, and composed by the singer herself, the album showcases what Joan does best – a combination of heartbreak and deep love sickness, all with an organic home-grown appeal of her solo tour. From the darker solemn halcyon of Always in my dreams, to the delightful passion and golden charm of This is not that, Joan crafts a wonderful juxtaposition of emotion, all the while keeping her infamously beautiful lyricsm. Unlike her 2013 trilogy of albums This Charming Life, Starlight, and Into The Blues, her latest isn’t at all genre based, but rather a story of love read from cover to cover with all of its glory and intense heart-break underlined. And it is a story that will indeed resonate, with its catchy hooks and earworm style melodies.