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"Cool Love"

Cool and austere like lemon ice, yet warm and rich like melted chocolate: yes, it's another contradiction brought to you courtesy of the mysteries of music.

Laura Stark was raised in Texas but has lived in London for nearly a decade. It's a story that tempts one to try to peg the elements of her style on influences of place. But I prefer to take the music on its own terms.

Stark's 6-track EP Dig Deep Down is about love and passion, but it's love observed in profile rather than head on:

Sometimes it's good to forget
Everything about you is amazing

and passion cautiously avoided:

You're standing right behind me
I don't even need to turn around to know
I feel your energy...
You know me and I know you
And we both know better

These recordings are lush but simple, the style modern but timeless, rootsy but fresh, like a gourmet meal prepared from humble, earthy ingredients. Stark has absolute control over her torchy alto. (It's not via studio tricks, either: I recently had the opportunity to hear Stark live.) Her delivery is captivating, with a touch of huskiness in her exquisite lower register. Bluesy melodies, delicate guitar hooks and (courtesy of collaborator Neil Conti) hypnotic, tasteful but modernistic drums and percussion add up to a carefully produced soundscape that strikes a fine balance between easy warmheartedness and immaculate clarity, especially in "Sometimes," "Volatile" and the title song.

Stark's lyrics are masterfully concise, notably in "Dig Deep Down," which appears on the EP in two different arrangements. (I prefer the one with the percussion to the one with the Byrdsian harmonies, but the song's a treasure either way.)

Dig deep down
Save my soul
Fighting hard
All I know
Forgive what I did
Forgive what I'm doing

Without needing to know exactly what's going on here, we sense the desperation and the tragedy, and that's exactly enough.

-Jon Sobel Kozmic - Kozmic Blues


Streaming on Broadjam and My Space.



"Cool and austere like lemon ice, yet warm and rich like melted chocolate" is how this emerging singer-songwriter's sound has been described.

Composing, writing songs, and playing in bands since her early teens in Texas, Laura Stark's first real experience in the music business came once she moved to London. She was commissioned to write instrumental soundtrack music, a theme tune for a TV-pilot, a song for a Swiss Air ad campaign, and even sang on a dance track for a British indie film. Stark then began working as a singer and lyricist with a Japanese acid jazz label in London where she recorded tracks with Simply Red's Kenji Suzuki.

But the thoughts of the wide open spaces of home would influence her own songwriting more and more and she soon began to play solo in London's best acoustic venues and attracted the attention of some of the UK's top musicians, including drummer Neil Conti (Deep Forest, Prefab Sprout, Annie Lennox) whose kinetic style gives an edgy tension to Stark's dark vocals, and London's own pedal steel maestro, BJ Cole (Alabama 3, R.E.M., Beck, Shania Twain, Sting), who can go from country twang to ambient atmospherics with one swoop of his slide. Conti, who's also worked with Brian Eno and Bowie, has produced Stark's new album at his Magic Circle Studios in the South of France. The latest addition to the album is the guitar work of Van Morrisson guitarist, Dick Farrelly, and a duet featuring the romantic crooner of Irish band PERRY BLAKE.

Stark has played at some of the most famous venues in London's Soho and West End, such as The Borderline, Tin Pan Alley's 12-Bar Club, Tony Moore's Kashmir Club, the legendary Ronnie Scott's, and also The Colony Room, famous for launching the career of The Magic Numbers recently. She has opened for many well known acts in the UK, including Tuvan throat singing punk group Yat-Kha. In the US, she's opened for hard core country twangsters, 16 Horsepower, at the famous Slim's club in San Francisco, as well as other gigs in LA, Texas and NYC. She has also performed live and had airplay on Internet Radio stations both in the US and the UK, and was a featured performer and guest last year on BBC Radio.

Laura Stark's music captures the memories of the heat, space and quiet of home through an alternative prism, showing that you can never really take Texas out of the girl, or her music.

A fusion joining Texas and London at a well-holstered hip, and radiating towards all forms of sultry, sexy melancholy, her musical influences stem in part from David Lynch films, Johnny Cash, Texas memories and the open road, bluegrass, celtic, and african finger picking, and artists such as Scott Walker, Emmylou Harris, Mazzy Star, Nina Simone, Kristin Hersh, and the Cowboy Junkies.