Sunday, 27 June 2021

Willing - Lady Nade


Provenance: Idly browsing Twitter on evening I saw an account I follow had posted a link to 'Ain't One Thing', a track on Lady Nade's forthcoming album Willing.

Ten minutes later and I was into my third listen, and had pinged out the link to about five WhatsApp chats. Not something I do very often.

This is one of the very few albums I've pre-ordered (trying to think of others - maybe Ghost's Prequelle?), but I knew I wanted to hear more of the what I'd heard on 'Ain't One Thing'.

Bottom line - I hadn't been this excited about a voice in donkey's years. And it all came from a Twitter recommendation I clicked almost at random.

Review: I've always appreciated good singers, but I'm also big on imperfect technicians who nonetheless have character in their vocals. Lady Nade is both a wonderful singer and someone who brings heaps of personality to the microphone. One of the most joyous aspects of Willing is hearing an unalloyed voice that, for the most part hasn't been teased 'n' tweezed to the point of blandness. You hear every catch and quaver in Lady Nade's remarkable performances, which is rare, human and altogether rather intimate.

There are a couple of exceptions to this on Willing, such as 'One-Sided', where to my untrained ears the words, delivered in a variety of sprechgesang, have been multi-tracked to mildly psychedelic effect. It feels like a clever move to use such trickery so judiciously, because within the context of the wider album it opens up new colours and textures to the soundscape. As an aside, it's also primo to hear a distinctive regional accent in popular music! (Is it Bristolian? I'm useless at these things.)

I could, truthfully, listen to Lady Nade sing my car insurance policy to me and I'd be pretty happy. Better yet is the marriage of voice to these lovely, unfussy arrangements; ranging from fingerpicked folk to rocky Americana, the breathing space in the production allows for some tasty little instrumental touches to come to the surface, like the swirling guitar that wraps up 'Rock Bottom' and the sprinkling of - what, pedal steel? - on 'Willing'. 

Something I haven't even mentioned yet is the songwriting - Lady Nade takes the listener through a variety of moods on Willing and it's all done with a directness and sincerity that is utterly, utterly charming. It's genuinely moving to hear a lyric like "You're so damn perfect / In every kind of way" sung with an audible smile; I suppose what I'm grasping at here is that, at the heart of Willing there seems to be a purity of spirit and emotion. The overall impression is that Lady Nade is letting you in on her innermost unfiltered thoughts, albeit set to music.

I cannot recommend this enough; highlights for me are 'Willing', 'Wildfire', 'One-Sided' and 'Ain't One Thing', but the whole kit and caboodle is superb. Warm, uplifting, tender, beautiful - Willing is all these things, plus a lesson in what can happen if you take a chance or two where listening habits are concerned.

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