Hattie Whitehead: Home

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Hattie Whitehead


August 2, 2017

Reviewed by Helen Theophanous for Cabaret Scenes

Hattie Whitehead has taken the stage at the U.K.’s Glastonbury Festival for the past two years as a winner of the Festival’s Emerging Talent competition and her debut EP, Home, is testament to her gifts as a songwriter and performer.

She describes her music as contemporary folk and regards her musical heroes as James Taylor, Nick Drake, John Martyn, and Joni Mitchell. Influences from soul, jazz and folk can also be heard in her music.

Her voice can suddenly surprise with its clarity, range, strength and ease, reminiscent of Joan Baez. At other times, her high soft tones recall Roberta Flack. Clearly, this artist is following in the footsteps of her father, leading U.K. jazz saxophonist and composer Tim Whitehead.

The impressive debut EP of five originals is superbly produced by Hattie with collaborator Damien O’Doherty and is quite stunning in its originality. Each track is beautifully and sensitively arranged to reflect the narrative and colors of the song. Whitehead plays acoustic guitar on every track.

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“This Ship,” with its gently rocking rhythm, reveals the smoky plaintive gentle quality in her voice, floating on the rhythmic undercurrent of guitar, piano, bass, drums, and bass clarinet ending unresolved on the horizon.

In contrast, the title track is a feisty, sensitive declaration of independence—with guitar, piano, bass, and drums providing a rhythm constantly moving onward—supporting Whitehead’s edgy vocals declaring that home is best.

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Although it is almost impossible to choose a favorite track, “Confused and Untied” is a contender. It is a soulful, optimistic reassuring anthem, the arrangement of guitar, piano, bass and drums building effortlessly with the singer’s crystal clear and strong vocals soaring above—surely a winner at any international Festival.

“Sonny,” the track inspired by her younger brother, is especially beautiful and moving with its warm arrangement of violin, viola and cello, perfectly enhancing her guitar and gentle vocals.

The haunting Celtic quality of “Twenty-Three” starts with a sole plaintive vocal, building with guitar, piano, bass drums and bass clarinet, underpinning Whitehead’s strong vocals and acoustic guitar, building to a rich rhythmic final chorus and gentle final phrase.

This treasure chest of an EP with the narrative of each song perfectly complemented by the arrangements, reveals Whitehead’s gift for storytelling with truth, and a voice that easily moves from an intimate gentle speech level and a haunting smoky quality to a bright, rich, soaring, yet perfectly controlled, glorious sound which can connect with an audience at a festival the size of Glastonbury.

Hattie Whitehead is an outstandingly talented musician. Her EP of five deceptively simple yet sophisticated and appealing originals is surely just the prelude to more treasures to come.

Visit www.hattiewhitehead.com to listen to Home.

Helen Theophanous

Helen Theophanous is half Greek/half Irish and studied music at Goldsmiths' and the Guildhall School of Music and Drama. She has performed classical works and lead roles in musical theater. Following a career in Education Management, Helen studied jazz with Lea DeLaria and performs in major London venues, appearing regularly at Ronnie Scott's Bar with the resident trio with whom she made her album “Amici.” Her recent Bacharach show was launched at the Crazy Coqs, where Helen occasionally hosts the late night Open Mic. Clare Martin OBE said of Helen's voice “ ...stunning and classy ..with drama and presence...”