Moving from backstage into the spotlight, the stuff of many a Hollywood plot line, is the real-life story of Bethan Lees. Whether as a dance teacher or stage manager, Lees has been absorbing new music on the festival circuit and at various open mic nights, where she would occasionally step forward with her own performance.
Coming from a musical family and honing her skills through busking and jamming with the creative people that have seemingly always surrounded her, Bethan began to write her own songs. Ships is her debut EP and the first professional recordings from this self-confessed free spirit.
Title track “Ships” opens the EP with spooky harmonies, which suggest that the song of the siren may not be far away. But Bethan performs a sleight-of-hand, picking up a song of the sea in 3/4 time. This is a teasing tune, chirpy on the surface while masking danger in the deep. Anyone who goes down to the sea in boats will recognise the sailor’s dilemma. Do we stay in port, wishing we were at sea, or go to sea but wish we had stayed in port? For, as Bethan says, “The sea, the sea is erratic”.
“Water and Wine” brings a jazz-blues vibe to the party, introducing Bethan’s vocal blend of Amy Winehouse and Duffy. A rhythmic delight, “Water and Wine” could be Bethan’s “A Star in Born” song, moving effortlessly from jazz-club to big band.
Bringing us bang up to date, “Post Festival Blues” reveals Bethan’s cheeky side. This is Lily Allen-meets-Lucy Spraggan in a life-affirming, contemporary take on the cosy bedsit life of music-loving folks. A deceptively simple blend of guitar and drums, topped off by a tongue-twisting tumult of lyrics, proves Bethan is no novice when it comes to plaiting together a pleasing tune.
Ever been in love? Then you’ll recognise the warm glow of romance from Bethan’s final track, “Sleep”. Creeping over like a soft blanket, Bethan’s trademark acoustic arrangement and breathy vocals build an atmosphere of smooth contentment. Let this track wash over you, swaying the mood with the gentlest rise and fall, for guaranteed relaxation.
Supported by Ben Ziehm-Stephen (drums), and Tom Bailey (double bass and cello), and produced by Lauren Deakin Davies, Bethan Lees has delivered a debut worthy of a veteran performer. Bringing musical variety, subtle storytelling and engaging imagery, Ships showcases Bethan’s vulnerable-yet-worldly vocal style in a neat package of musical treats. Every track stands alone and is worthy of release as a single, heralding a future for Bethan as a world class singer-songwriter. She deserves her space centre-stage.
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