Tuesday, 23 July 2013

Record Review - Sweet Jean

Published in the July issue of The Big Issue.

[three and a half stars]

While troubadour Sime Nugent may be best known for his solo output, along with his contributions to bluegrass quintet The Wilson Pickers, it’s been with Sweet Jean that he’s spent most of his time recently. Teaming up with Alice Keath toward the end of 2010, the pair have garnered acclaim the world over for their live show, and it comes as no surprise that their debut LP is a fine effort.

Paul Kelly himself has called Dear Departure ‘Dreamy’ and ‘epic’, and he’s spot on, those two adjectives perfectly describing tracks like ‘Hello Concrete’ – Keath’s voice floating effortlessly over the top of an oddly, yet pleasingly, urgent piano line. Elsewhere, ‘Shiver And Shake’ courts country music, its upbeat percussion evoking a honky tonk vibe, while ‘Angles Come Get You’ is eerie in its intensity, back by haunting strings, perfectly arranged.

What ties it all up of course, is the vocal harmonies the pair create, Nugent’s ponderous voice combining with Keath’s sweeter register to a tee, on a record which is, in a word, compelling.

Samuel J. Fell

Dear Departure is available now through Waterfront Records.

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