Gem Andrews – Scatter (2012)

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Gem Andrews

Deep, dark and beautiful Americana love songs for the lonely and broken hearted

For once, you really can judge a CD by the cover, as the superb photograph by D Walla that adorns SCATTER perfectly reflects the music like a mirror. And that’s a compliment coming from me.

Gem Andrews has been on the North Eastern music scene for a couple of years now and has gradually built up a reputation as a singer-songwriter in the tradition of a young Joni Mitchell but, even after seeing her play live earlier this year, I wasn’t prepared for how wonderfully wonderful her debut album is.

On stage, Gem cuts a lonely figure with her guitar. But, on SCATTER, we get string arrangements, cutting pedal-steel, an accordion, haunting piano interludes all tied up in production values that would impress Phil Spector.

The tinkling piano and tapping drums that begin album opener Part Tenderly stopped me in my tracks. When the strings come in beneath Gem’s warm voice my heart skipped a beat. The tale itself is rather good too.

All of the songs throughout SCATTER are quite gentle in an alt-country style, but never twee. For the most part they sound as good as anything that has come out of Nashville or Austin in the last few years.

Cold Stone Floors is about as loud as lo-fi gets. Possibly the best song that the Cowboy Junkies never recorded had me pressing the repeat button 3 times in succession. It was a similar story with the spectacular Alright with its key changes and lines like, “I’ll kiss the whisky from your breath” and “If you are craving my company/I’ll get so close to you/ you won’t need a shadow.” Songwriting like this, which is both simple and awe-inspiring, is a very rare commodity these days.

Ladybird appears to be about the death of a mother and is full of charming imagery, and even has some birds chirping at the end. I just love it.

SCATTER by Gem Andrews will sound just as good on a Sunday morning while reading the newspapers as it will when it’s used as a soundtrack to a thousand misunderstood, broken hearted and lonely teenage girls who are wallowing in their own misery.

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