Alana Henderson
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Alana Henderson

Belfast, United Kingdom | Established. Jan 01, 2014 | SELF

Belfast, United Kingdom | SELF
Established on Jan, 2014
Band Folk Pop

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This band has not uploaded any videos

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"Culture Northern Ireland"

Dungannon-born singer-songwriter and cellist Alana Henderson hasn’t rested on her laurels since the release of her debut EP, Wax and Wane, in 2013. A busy concert schedule at home and on the continent – and an appearance on the David Letterman Show with Bray singer Hozier in New York – have combined to raise the profile of this talented performer.

A packed Black Box is testament to Henderson’s growing reputation as a strikingly original artist. The healthy turnout is reward too for the imaginative programming of the Open House Festival team. A sunny afternoon gig, and one vying with the World Cup, could have been less than successful. Happily, the tables are full and the bar is doing decent business.

Despite big-time TV slots in the States and a gig at this year’s Glastonbury, this is Henderson’s first headlining gig in Belfast. There are, however, no signs of nerves as she slides into the delightful 'Museum of Thought', built around pizzicato cello and drummer Connor Burnside’s soft groove on brushes. Backing vocals from guitarist Jarlath Henderson and violinist Laura Wilkie add waves of harmonic depth but the song’s beauty lies in its simplicity.

Henderson weaves pop, folk and classical elements in catchy tunes that seduce from the get go. The themes revolve around love and relationships in various states of evolution; an old wellspring perhaps, but there is something utterly fresh and vital in Henderson’s delivery and in the original angles from which she launches her tales.

Lilting melodies and the gentle cadences of Henderson’s voice illuminate the poetry of her lyrics. On 'Two Turtle Doves' she sings: 'Oh do you see the turtle dove who flies from vine to vine? She’s looking for her own true love as I have looked for mine.' Henderson weighs the worth of each word, like stitches in a beautiful sonic tapestry. Her artful delivery evokes the great English singer June Tabor, though Henderson’s colors are of a brighter hue.

Four-part vocal harmonies – with keyboardist Laura Henderson swelling the backing chorus – buoy Henderson on 'Less Said', a little gem of a tune. The sparser, cello-only arrangement of 'Old Clothes' serves to highlight Henderson’s clever lyrics.

Two tunes from Windfall, Henderson’s album of traditional Northern Irish tunes released early in 2014, show the natural ease with which she inhabits the folkloric realm. On 'The Orphan Girl', a ballad from County Tyrone written in the 1950s, Henderson switches to ukulele and is joined by Laura Henderson in a lovely vocal duet.

The haunting love song 'Is fada Ó bhaile' is sung in Irish. Cello and violin merge as one, with Laura Henderson drawing ethereal sounds from glockenspiel by running a bow up and down the edges of the keys.

Cellists-cum-singer-songwriters aren’t exactly two a penny and Henderson pays tribute to one of the progenitors by singing Arthur Russell’s infectiously poppish 'A Little Lost'. The only other cover is a lively take on Nanci Griffith’s ‘folkabilly’ tune 'One Blade Shy of a Sharp Edge', which features singing bluegrass violin from Wilkie.

It’s Henderson’s own compositions, however, that really stand out. Stellar love songs like 'Anyone Who’s Not You', the jaunty alt-folk of 'The Tower', and the infectious, lyric guile of 'Wax and Wane', sound like nobody else. Henderson is an original voice who exudes musicality. She’s still paying her dues but her craft, based on this not to be forgotten performance, is well and truly honed. - Culture Northern Ireland


"Si's Sights and Sounds"

It is uncharacteristic for the cello to be much more than a backing or background instrument (or a hindrance-turned-benefit, if you're Timothy Dalton's James Bond), but Dungannon's Alana Henderson has taken it to the forefront in her four-track debut EP, Wax & Wane.

And the first thing you notice about her brand of "cello pop" is the studious thoughtfulness that has gone into her compositions. Four minutes into the EP and she's a mistress of her craft, with a voice worthy of Joni Mitchell nestling alongside bitterly poetic lyrics and inventive string melodies.

The title track is a summation of the reflective nature of the whole recording, a series of alternately fragile or weary refrains fading into innovative vocal harmonies - the generally warm warbling of a once smitten, later bitten but now extremely well-written woman. It’s electrifying, and enough to make the whole EP worth purchasing by itself, but Henderson has much more to offer us.

Bookended by Irish Trad fiddling from Laura Wilkie, "The Tower" ingeniously mixes a foot-stomping groove with a cautionary tale of lost love, the need for familial support and rebuilding one's life. It isn't quite as multi-dimensional as the song that precedes it, but its titillating bluesiness still gets under your skin.

Now, imagine if Kate Nash or Ellie Goulding played string instruments on a regular basis, and you'd have "Song About A Song", arguably the most personal tune on the record. After hearing both this and the last song on the EP, "Two Turtle Doves", it becomes clear why Henderson has successfully collaborated with dreamily indie Belfast ensemble The Jepettos, her style and approach lending itself perfectly to their sensibilities.

By the time we hear Henderson's dulcet, soulful tones fade out for the last time, one senses that this end is only the beginning for this hugely promising young artist. - Simon Fallaha


Discography

Still working on that hot first release.

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