Mia Riddle / James Black
It’s not entirely clear from the biographies how it happened, but Mia Riddle and James Black, two singer/songwriters for opposite sides of the Atlantic, have somehow ended up sharing space on a split album. Other than the shared record and similar solo line-ups, there isn’t much else shared between these two very different acts.
Mia Riddle keeps things simple with a warm-sounding acoustic guitar played to perfection, with a honeycomb voice that adds all the intensity to the gentle music.
It’s melancholy and teary eyed at times, but incredibly varied for such a plain set-up. ‘Ship of Dreams’ has a guitar line Johnny Cash would have penned, but instead of the gravelly textures of a world-wise man, it’s a clean and soft love-weary girl taking the lead.
The second tune ‘Homesick’ brings to mind an unplugged version of The Cardigans. The guitar plucks a rising thread with tambourine accompaniment as the song progresses.
‘Thunderstorm’ is my personal favourite, winding its way from a skeletal verse into a hopeful chorus, showing off the dynamic range of Mia’s voice along the way.
James Black takes over for the second half with a lone electric guitar with a bit of overdrive and a vocal entrenched firmly in London.
‘Clumsy’ is a song that sums up the spiky sound quite well, a cross between Elvis Costello and The Piranhas. The lyrics are very personal and have a certain naive charm.
The collection of five songs do sound quite similar, although the lyrics head off in various directions, but the main criticism would have to be that the vocal needs more balls in the angsty bits and more heartbreak in the emotionally broken sections.
It’s an interesting album with altogether more contrast and invention than many compositions containing full band line ups with orchestral support.
Written by Fenton on