MONICA QUEEN
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MONICA QUEEN

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MONICA QUEEN:
Colin Somerville: Scotland on Sunday
TEN SORROWFUL MYSTERIES
CREEPING BENT 063CD £13.99
Both fragile and fierce, this should
be in strong contention for solo
debut album of the year. Monica
Queen has made a record that
improbably brings Neil Young,
Joe Meek and The Crying Shames
together in terms of the atmosphere
and harmonies created here, for
which guitarist and producer Johnny
Smillie takes a great deal of credit.
The tone is set from the off with the
simplistic country let 'em down easy
of 'I'm Sorry Darling' sounding like it
is being beamed down from Telstar
in some distant musical galaxy.
Truly great records are those which
interest sufficiently on the first listening
to demand a second, and grow
progressively more intoxicating thereafter.
As the title suggests, this is no party
record, but is equally scornful of anything
approaching self pitying sentiment.
Queen's tremulous phrasing can be
beautifully affecting, making it near
impossible not be touched by songs
like 'Do Something Pretty' and 'Tear
Behind My Smile'. Once fully seduced
by the ethereal production, the good
thing that comes to those who wait is
the restrained epic 'Where Do You
Sleep'. Muted bells toll, Smillie's
guitar gently rages, and the minor
key chorus harmonies stand with the
best moments on Young's 'After The
Goldrush'. Of course this will never
make Monica a millionth of the
wealth generated by Dido's bland,
characterless debut, but boasts a
spiritual richness we can all bank on.

Monica Queen:
Fiona Sheppard:The Scotsman
Ten Sorrowful Mysteries Silver **** Creeping Bent, £13.99
MONICA Queen is a homegrown acoustic troubadour who avoids the pitfalls of polite folky strumming on this emotional solo debut. Queen previously country-rocked in Glaswegian quartet Thrum but has turned the volume right down on Ten Sorrowful Mysteries, so fans of her gale-force voice will need to make a sharp re-adjustment to her now-dulcet tones. There is no less potency in her brave new musical world, which is suffused with beautifully-judged tender melancholy. John Smillie's plangent, aching guitar and Queen's lovelorn voice make a spine-tingling combination which is sustained throughout. Ten Sorrowful Mysteries is one simple, engaging idea, explored from a number of angles - whether on the devotional hymn State Of Grace or the bittersweet ambivalence of I'm Sorry Darling, there is the same quality of vulnerability. The ingrained influence of their hero Neil Young is also prevalent, particularly on the plaintive Where Do You Sleep which brings this moving album to an immaculate close.





Netrhythm Review by Mike Davies: Last heard sharing vocals on the Belle & Sebastian single Lazy Line Painter Jane, the former Thrum vocalist reunites with her old guitarist Johnny Smillie as sole musical companion for this wonderful debut album of sublime folksy pop. Blessed with a fragile yet stoical voice that's been called a blend of Emmy Lou, Buffy St Marie and Hope Sandoval but which I'd also add - though obviously she sounds nothing like him - Roy Orbison (a comparison you'll understand once you hear Do Something Pretty which sounds like I Don't Want To Talk About It meets Crying), she dresses her delicate songs in washes of isolation tank electronics that seep inside you to massage your soul. It's the feel of bathing in crystal waterfalls surrounded by the scents of pine and cinnamon. Affairs of the heart and spirit take centre stage, the songs haunted with mystery, passion, vulnerability, regret and acceptance, and while it seems almost like betraying lovers to single any out for special favouritism, it's impossible not to listen to the aching I'm Sorry Darling, State of Grace, Tear Behind My Smile or the Morricone influenced Where Do You Sleep without falling into an intoxicating reverie of narcotic bliss. As the title suggests, this is a religious experience. - VARIOUS


RETURN OF THE SACRED HEART


Monica Queen, Return of the Sacred Heart reviewed by anna battista Her first solo album, Ten Sorrowful Mysteries (Creeping Bent, 2002), won her comparisons to Patsy Cline, Emmylou Harris, Mary Margaret O'Hara and Neil Young. Monica Queen, ex-voice of indie band Thrum and probably best known as the guest vocalist on Belle & Sebastian's "Lazy Line Painter Jane", claimed then that it was a big responsibility to be compared to such singers, but, as time passed, she proved she can definitely stand up well to these comparisons. Queen's new album, Return of the Sacred Heart (Vertical Records), co-written with and produced by ex-Thrum guitarist and Queen collaborator Johnny Smillie, extends the main religious theme of her first solo album and gives Queen's vocal skills a new dimension. The album opens with the soulful "Fly Away", which features Jim White (who asked Queen and Smillie to work with him on a track and has returned the favour on this song; Queen also supported White on his latest UK tour); the second track, "The Passion" is a hieratical experience with an ethereal background chorus that gives you the impression you're listening to the song in a chapel; the title track is simply touching and heartbreaking while "Beautiful Song" is a very aptly titled track. Towards the end of the album, there are two of the best songs Queen has ever recorded, the melancholic and nostalgic "Déjà Vu" in which Queen gives her voice previously unachieved nuances, and the lulling "Holiest Night". Throughout the album the musical arrangements are sparse, most songs feature indeed an acoustic guitar, giving in this way more space to Queen's angelic voice, a mixture of grace, fragility and purity. Return of the Sacred Heart lifts Queen's art to a purer and more spiritual level and reconfirms her as one of the best female singer/songwriters around.


MONICA QUEEN Return of the Sacred Heart Vertical Three years on from the fragile masterpiece, Ten Sorrowful Mysteries, Monica Queen and producer Johnny Smillie have gone one better numerically, delivering 11 celestial pop songs. Extending the religious motif of the title, this sounds like it was recorded in a chapel in a misty valley, the musical arrangements restrained as if in awe of Queen's voice. Occasionally so fragile it hurts - 'Beautiful Song' and the opening 'Fly Away' being two cases in point - this record shimmers rather than shakes. It seems so intensely personal that listening to it almost feels like an intrusion, but the title track and 'Breathe Beauty' are utterly compelling. FROM SCOTLAND ON SUNDAY.


Monica Queen - Return of the Sacred Heart (Vertical)


If Ten Sorrowful Mysteries, the debut album by Queen and Johnny Smillie, respectively former Thrum singer and guitarist, was a religious experience, then the follow up is a positively transcendental apotheosis. Opening on escape from the city song Fly Away with its sparse euphonium backing and Jim White providing spoken white noise in the background's fading seconds, Queen's stoical fragility and hymnal purity are clearly drenched in a state of grace. But if the last album unveiled a new depth to her voice, this journey through religious tinged Americana moves it to another realm entirely, its devotional mood perfectly captured in Smillie's Daniel Lanois styled production. Second track, The Passion, is pure hymnal, a choir effect humming in the background, Queen's voice trembling like Emmylou Harris at her most Wrecking Ball sacred on the tumblingly plaintive 'how could you love' chorus line. Harris has been used as a touchstone for reviews, but while the comparisons are justified, I'd offer a couple of other influences too. Leonard Cohen would clearly seem to be in evidence on the magnificent title track while elsewhere thoughts of the Cocteau Twins come to mind on the spare beauty of Holiest Night and the gently lulling wash of Deja Vu, the McGarrigles with the sublime To Accept The Things I Cannot Change and though more difficult to pinpoint you can't help but feel the spirit of Edith Piaf breathing into such songs as When Love Is Brought To Birth (the opening of which recalls Trois Cloches) and the aptly titled Beautiful Song. I Still Wait In The Shadows, sings Queen. On the evidence of this, not for much longer.

www.monicaqueen.co.uk

Mike Davies


FROM THE SCOTSMAN. MONICA QUEEN: RETURN OF THE SACRED HEART VERTICAL, £13.99 THE singer best known as the guest vocalist on Belle & Sebastian's Lazy Line Painter Jane and the voice of country rockers Thrum reins in her natural gutsy holler on her second solo album, giving a consistently controlled yet vulnerable performance to rank alongside her debut Ten Sorrowful Mysteries. Again the tone is melancholy but devotional, the arrangements sparse and simple - often just Queen's tremulous voice and her partner Johnny Smillie's plangent guitar - and the recording lo-fi, but Return of the Sacred Heart is pregnant with atmosphere. There are moments which recall the ethereal spaciness of the Cocteau Twins, and definite traces of the portentous gospel rumble of Nick Cave on the title track. Another gem from a somewhat overlooked Scottish talent. FIONA SHEPHERD

within BBCi music:

Monica Queen
Return Of The Sacred Heart
(Vertical)

When someone is hailed as the new Emmylou Harris , eyebrows of
suspicion usually get to work. And rightly so. Imagine the joy then
when Monica Queen's Return Of The Sacred Heart not only sounds like
Emmylou but the whole package sounds like Harris' flawless Wrecking
Ball.

Queen arguably got her first real break when asked by Belle And
Sebastian 's Stuart to help him out on a track he was having a little
difficulty with. The outcome was "Lazy Line Painter Jane" and things
seem to be getting better and better for the Scotland born performer.
Grant Lee Buffalo ,The Jayhawks and Shane MacGowan have all invited her
onstage.

This is Monica Queen's follow-up to her highly acclaimed solo debut Ten
Sorrowful Mysteries . The album opens with a beautiful short number
entitled "Fly Away" featuring Jim White who Queen supported on his last
tour of the UK. The sparse production on "Fly Away" sets the tone for
this semi-religious collection of soulful country songs.

With a range and tone very similar to Emmylou Harris, Monica Queen's
voice is simply beautifully angelic. Stick that on top of this
fantastic and often understated production and the results are quite
compelling. The man behind the production is Johnny Smillie - who
kicked around with Queen in Thrum , their previous band - as well as
providing the aural backdrop to Ten Sorrowful Mysteries. If Monica
Queen is comparative to Harris then it would be fair to say that
Smillie's production skills are akin to those of Daniel Lanois. Quite a
team, really; the goods almost always delight.

This is a comforting album full of surprises. The title track is
masterful and sublime, and "Beautiful Song" is exactly what it says on
the tin. Along with Smillie's technical wizardry, most songs sport
acoustic guitar and "To Accept The Things I Cannot Change" is a
particularly fine example. When the electric and drums kick off "I
Still Wait In The Shadows", it feels like an entire family has just
entered your living room, chatting away and making cups of tea.

"Deja Vu" uses only synths as accompaniment, with Queen's lower range
being used to greater effect. In fact, therein lies what is
ostensibly the only criticism of this disc - that she does not explore
this area of her vocals enough. Not much of a criticism, really, when
her voice is so impressive throughout.

Reviewer: Cormac Heron
- VARIOUS


Discography

TEN SORROWFUL MYSTERIES on CREEPING BENT
RETURN OF THE SACRED HEART on SANCTUARY.

Photos

Bio

2 albums 2 labels - lots of amazing reviews.
3rd album soon.Sang with Thrum,Belle and Sebastian,Chris Coco.