Gwyneth Herbert
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Gwyneth Herbert

Hastings, England, United Kingdom | Established. Jan 01, 2003

Hastings, England, United Kingdom
Established on Jan, 2003
Band Jazz Folk




"Gwyneth Herbert at Wilton's Music Hall (The Sea Cabinet Tour) (5 Stars)"

Wilton’s – the world’s oldest surviving Grand Music Hall – had to be the best place to launch Gwyneth Herbert’s Sea Cabinet tour and CD.

Developed during a residency for Aldeburgh Music it is “a song-cycle ripened on the Suffolk coast, drawing – as Benjamin Britten did – from the area’s violent and beautiful coastline.”

Herbert opens with Sea Theme – a haunting vocalisation accompanied by a stacatto piano motif alluring like a benign siren’s seductive call into a world of wondrous anticipation.

For the next hour and a half Herbert delivers abundantly on that promise.

The set has as narrator Heidi James, who in between songs tells the story of a woman beachcomber who collects, day after day, objects cast up by the tides, meticulously cataloguing them and with each inspiring the following song.

The temptation to draw comparisons by invoking genres is as futile as it is detracting from the breathtaking originality of this music.

The melancholy of the waltzing The Regal paints tenderly a seen-better-times seaside hotel. Alderney bursts and then soars in an affectionate waltz that ebbs and flows beautifully between vibrant choruses.

Herbert’s vision comes complete with strong and immaculately timed composition, eloquent and complex instrumentation for diametric shifts of moods and wonderfully evocative lyrics.

Like the sea that inspired it the Cabinet disgorges melodic riches ranging from mere whispers and murmurs to gusts of ominous darkness and roars delivered by a voice that will render any emotion with commanding ease.

The King’s Shilling shanty pounces ferociously with marching rhythms and a warning plea of old-time navy ruthless recruitment methods and consequences.

Each of the songs is an impressively crafted, well-observed and engrossing vignette of life’s trying moments – I Still Hear The Bells, Promises or Drip will grab your attention return time and time again.

The tested and trusted trio of Al Cherry on guitar, Sam Burgess on bass and Dave Price – who also helped Herbert produce The Sea Cabinet – on percussion are dab hands at this game and never misplace a note, while, guided by Herbert’s sharp ear, the Rubber Wellies chip in with fiddles, accordion, melodica or clarinet and Fiona Bevan’s voice, guitar and piano augment the tidal shifts of sound. Simply, a triumph. - Morning Star

"Gwyneth Herbert at Wilton's Music Hall (The Sea Cabinet Tour) (4 Stars)"

Since Gwyneth Herbert's Aldeburgh-commissioned song-cycle The Sea Cabinet takes Suffolk's coastline as its theme, Wilton's Music Hall made an atmospheric location for the album launch. The old vaudeville theatre's faded paint and bare brickwork projected all the battered ruggedness of a seafront building blasted by storms. Herbert's blossoming career after she escaped her unwanted mid-noughties image as a jazz diva has embraced idiosyncratically incisive songwriting and scores for soundtracks and theatre. The Sea Cabinet, however, finds her in assured charge of an even broader palette.

Alongside her regular trio, Herbert's accomplices were Harry Bird and Christophe Capewell from folk band the Rubber Wellies and singer-songwriter Fiona Bevan. The band delivered a varied opening set of Celtic and Basque jigs and ballads, and Bevan took us on startling odysseys that suggested Erykah Badu, Joanna Newsom and Kate Bush spine-tinglingly joined.

Herbert opened the main event with a quiet piano motif introducing the haunting Sea Theme (resonantly harmonised between her and Bevan). Narrator Heidi James then introduced the central story of a woman who daily walks alone on a beach, collecting and meticulously cataloguing washed-up objects – each of which has its own song. Some were chanson-like, some were fierce sea shanties on the ruthlessness of old-time recruitment (The King's Shilling), and others were typically sharp Herbert sketches of emotional lives at crossroads ("You took every drip, every drop of my energy, you took every tick every tock of my time").

Herbert's jazz-savvy trio (guitarist Al Cherry, bassist Sam Burgess and drummer Dave Price) mimicked beleagured boats or high winds with deep bowed-bass slurs or whistling bottleneck sounds; the Rubber Wellies added fiddles, reeds, accordion and melodica. But Herbert's imaginative narrative, and her casually commanding voice – whether softly nuanced as confiding speech or at full soaring-contralto stretch – were the central characters in an entertaining and often moving show that opens a new chapter in her creative story. - The Guardian (UK)

""Clangers & Mash" Album Review"

Clanger and Mash is not really the follow-up to Gwyneth Herbert’s sublime All the Ghosts album, more an appendix to it. Of its nine tracks, four are remixes of tracks from its predecessor proper and another is a song that didn’t make it onto that album. Labelled as a mini-album, this set runs for just under 33 minutes and only includes one new song, Perfect Fit, which is featured in three separate versions. The fact that Perfect Fit is Herbert’s new single best explains the format of this release.
Fortunately, Perfect Fit is one of Herbert’s most engagingly melodic compositions, a jaunty sing-along sure to lift anyone’s spirits. The original version features ukulele accompaniment plus handclaps that ideally complement Herbert’s upbeat vocals and lyrics. The shorter radio edit adds a version of the chorus likely to make the hairs on the back of your neck stand up, as Herbert harmonises with herself.
Check out the infectious joy of the song’s chorus. You’ll probably be singing it before long: "Look at my life / look at my dreams / and the wonder that the sky it seems so blue / soooooo blue / and I smile as I sit / because I’ve found my perfect fit and it is you / yeeeees it’s you." Such life-affirming stuff deserves to become a big hit.
In addition to the single, there is plenty on Clangers and Mash to savour. Like most remixes, those here will only make sense to someone familiar with the original versions. Polar Bear’s Seb Rochford transforms My Mini & Me into a much starker, stripped-down plea than the original, by emphasising Herbert’s heartfelt vocals. On a remix of Perfect Fit without Herbert’s voice, Mr Solo sings like a cross between Bowie and Scott Walker. It suggests that the song could become a standard.
The power of Herbert’s vocals is re-emphasised by the album’s closing track, Midnight Oil, from her album Between Me and the Wardrobe, given an a cappella treatment in which her voice oozes emotion. The fragility of Herbert’s performance is beautiful but makes for almost painful listening. - BBC

""All the Ghosts" Album Review (4 Stars)"

Gwyneth Herbert didn't hang a jazz-singer label around her neck when she made her memorable debut in 2004, but she featured some sensitive interpretations of jazz standards, despite her clearly very non-sectarian tastes. This fine album, which marks Herbert's second restart after brief flings with major labels (first Universal, then Blue Note), is also the truest to her distinctive muse, with its debts to Janis Ian, Joni Mitchell and Tom Waits, as much as to Billie Holiday or Nina Simone. These originals represent Herbert's own world: caught on the bus back to Hackney full of battered late-night voyagers, in the Ray Davies bounce of Annie's Yellow Bag, or drifting past the eerie metallic crashes on Lorelei ("What's the matter, Kafka got your tongue?"). Herbert's earlier jazz following perhaps won't find many familiar landmarks (though her ironic London road song sounds as if it has borrowed Cassandra Wilson's blues band), but as an idiosyncratic singer-songwriter album, All the Ghosts will be on the year-end hitlists whatever its genre. - The Guardian

""Between Me and the Wardrobe" Album Review (5 Stars)"

When starting out two years ago, Surrey-born Gwyneth Herbert would wander on stage looking like the captain of the school netball team, and then scare the bejesus out of her audience with her remarkably mature voice. You had to take notice; she was clearly going places.

The problem was that there was no shortage of other young singers around at the time who were also clearly going places. Since most of them were covers singers who didn't seem to sense the incongruity of singing numbers three times as old as they were, Herbert stood out because she combined more contemporary material with a couple of originals that were alone worth the cost of admission. So it seemed like a matter of time before she defined herself with her own songs, rather than remain in eternal competition with the great 20th-century interpreters of the American popular song like Ella, Billie and Sarah.

Between Me and the Wardrobe puts clear blue water between her recent past as she reinvents herself in a style halfway between Janis Ian and Susanna and the Magical Orchestra. Now 25, her voice sounds much lighter and more relaxed on her own originals, and rather than trying to invest meaning, lets the lyrics do the work for her. They are well thought out, moving between artfully constructed soft-focus simplicities to poignant yearning: witness 'Lay You Down' and 'That's the Kind of Man'.

Despite the often minimalistic accompaniment, there is more to this album than initially greets the ear. - The Observer (UK)


First Songs (2003, Dean Street Records)
Bittersweet and Blue (2004, Universal)
Between Me and the Wardrobe (2007, Blue Note)
Ten Lives (2008, Real World Records/Bowers and Wilkins)
All the Ghosts (2009, Naim Edge)
Clangers & Mash (2010, Naim Edge)
The Sea Cabinet (2013, Monkeywood)



Gwyneth Herbert is an award-winning composer and lyricist, vocalist, multi-instrumentalist, record producer and strikingly original performer. She has released 6 critically-acclaimed albums (including the first UK Blue Note release in 30 years), toured across the world and shared stages with Boy George, Amy Winehouse and John Cooper Clarke.

Drawing on influences from the worlds of folk, jazz, art pop, contemporary classical, avant-garde music and storytelling, she performs with a variety of instruments and a “casually commanding voice – whether softly nuanced as confiding speech or at full soaring-contralto stretch” (The Guardian).

She has also made numerous appearances on BBC Radio 2, 3 and 4; co-created three musicals and a feature-length art film; performed her own film score at the British Film Institute; and had her arrangement of a Swahili folk-song performed by 100,000 children at once.

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