Words by Ceri Black
Despite over 50,000 Facebook fans, and supporting the likes of Damien Rice and Michelle Shocked, Jo Hamilton is still relatively unknown.
Born in Scotland, now based in Moseley, her first official album – Gown, was originally released in 2009 to pundit acclaim. Now, in the absence of any further album releases, Gown has been remastered into a Special Edition, including bonus tracks and artwork.
After researching Jo Hamilton, I was excited to sit down with a cuppa and listen to her work. Classically trained, and often compared to the likes of Bjork and Sigur Ros, I had rather high expectations of Gown – Special Edition.
Plus Hamilton was the first artist to professionally use an ‘air piano’ (a non-contact electronic instrument), and after hearing her describe playing it as ‘almost dance-like’ my curiosity grew.
So, were my assumptions of something amazing met? Almost.
As a debut album, Gown is far from routine. Inspiration from world cultures (Hamilton recorded parts of Gown in Cambodia and Jamaica) flow through the tracks effortlessly, as Hamilton’s flirtatious vocals unite the use of unusual instruments and beats.
‘Paradise’ is an excellent example of the quirky use of sound – from a man speaking a language I wouldn’t hazard a guess at, to the clean clash of finger cymbals, this track creates a perfect sense of warmth.
‘Liathach’ is something far simpler. Starting with only Hamilton’s voice accompanied by piano, the track ascends into a beautifully powerful ballad, flaunting the talent she so clearly possesses.
But in spite of all of this, some tracks left me a little irritated, confused even. There is so much going on in ‘Pick Me Up’, for example, I found it difficult to grasp the idea of the song.
Also the use of too many instruments, alongside Hamilton’s sometimes strangely nasal vocals, produced a musical mêlée I occasionally couldn’t get my head round.
But this is a minor criticism, Gown – Special Edition is definitely worth a listen.
And after attracting a second round of UK attention, alongside impressing audiences stateside, Jo Hamilton’s profile looks sure to increase. And about time, you’ll no doubt hear Facebook say.
For more information on Jo Hamilton, and to listen to and purchase Gown – Special Edition, visit www.johamilton.com