My Life & I
All Killer, No Filler N’orn Irish Powerhouse R&B Belters and Ballads
I first encountered Kaz Hawkins way back in 2013 at the inaugural Belfast Skyline Americana Festival; when in the middle of the afternoon she made a short and sharp appearance, which garnered this in my review …
“The stage was cleared and refilled with military precision for the fulsome figured Blues ‘belter’, Kaz Hawkins, who immediately cranked the party up a couple of notches with her raucous Honky Tonk songs, and I feel I really must mention the outstanding Lipstick and Cocaine from her forthcoming album in September, which was a real pot-boiler.”
I reviewed her subsequent debut album, but while tenuously following her career on Social Media; I never received anything else until two weeks ago when this retrospective arrived.
After a couple of plays; I began regretting calling her a ‘Blues Belter’ back in ’13; as she is much much more than that; starting with the pure Gospel of opening song Pray, which is full of nuance, subtlety and passion; and will blow your socks off so hard you may never find the left one!
This is followed by the wistful and simpering heartbreaker; Because You Love Me with Sam York’s gentle and evocative piano playing hatching thoughts of this being sung late at night in the Bada Bing! nightclub, with Tony Soprano crying his eyes out in the corner.
Later there’s a song called Surviving which uses a similar template; but listen very carefully two or three songs and you will hear a woman unburdening herself of a time in her life that needs putting out of harms way; in a way I’ve rarely heard in 50 years of buying music.
There are 17 tracks here and I can’t possibly tell you about each and every one; life’s too short, so if I miss anything out it’s not because it’s a ‘duffer’ …. it’s not – there ain’t any filler here – it’s definitely all KILLER!
Kaz covers a couple of Classic Blues tunes; and certainly puts her own inimitable spin on them; starting with Feelin’ Good; which sounds as if it was written with her in mind as she uses her voice like a sonic missile at times.
The two Etta James covers: ‘Something’s Gotta Hold On Me’ and ‘At Last’, show new listeners where she’s coming from; but Kas sure ain’t looking back here; she shines them up for 21st Century cosmopolitan listeners; and the results are absolutely glorious.
The other ‘cover’ is/would be a song that she would be contractually obliged to include in every set of hers growing up in the bars and clubs in and around Belfast; and that’s her funky big band rendition of Van’s Full Force Gale which more or less stands head and shoulders beside the Master’s original …. honest!
Of the others, Hallelujah Happy People! is every syllable as exciting and tragically beautiful as it was that first afternoon 9 years ago; and Drink With The Devil tells it’s very own story that will have many of us smirking at the memory.
I’m pleased to report that there is plenty of light and shade here; with Kaz showing what a truly wonderful ‘singer’ she is on Don’t You Know, Believe With Me and the gut wrenching ballad; Surviving when the arrangements allow her to take us on an emotional rollercoaster that will leave even the average music fan a tear stained wreck the first time they hear them.
For my choice of Favourite Song I’ve managed to narrow the field down to three songs that all could and should be Classics of the genre if only the world was a fair place.
The album closes with Shake which lets Kaz finally loose her stays and give it some welly! Boy is it a way to leave the listener wanting more.
The River That Sings is one of those beautifully maudlin songs that; perhaps I’ve got this wrong; but will resonate with anyone who has moved away from the family home to seek their fortune; and even only mentally, this song draws them back like a magnet.
The other is from her Live album; and is the song that captured my heart that weekend in Belfast when I first saw Kaz Hawkins …. Lipstick and Cocaine. If you already know this song … you know it is a heartbreaker par excellence and if you haven’t …well…. you’re in for a very rare treat. While I’ve found numerous songs here that have knocked me sideways; Lipstick and Cocaine is a diamond in a pile of ruby’s and topaz ….. it shines like no other.
It’s still not too late for Kaz Hawkins to get the reward that her talent so deserves; and that talent deserves nights singing these songs at the Royal Albert Hall, Carnegie Hall, the Philharmonie de Paris in her adopted homeland and of course the Waterfront in the heart of Belfast.
Released September 23rd 2022.
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