I’ve been a little tardy in discovering HANNAH BROWN, a Nottingham native now ensconced in Birmingham, but catching up has proven a fruitful experience. Following The Highbury Sessions, a six track limited edition acoustic EP co-produced with Rob Peters that underscored her guitar playing and songwriting, towards the end of the year, prior to her Radio 2 BBC Introducing showcase, she released debut single I Don’t Want To Be You (AAM Records), bringing a fuller production and poppier sensibility to the folksy bedrock and highlighting her harmony skills. Two tracks are reprised from the acoustic sessions, the fingerpicked Refuge From The Rain (which will be the title of her debut album, due later this year) now less vocally strident and with added violin and drums, the former also subtly complementing the spare watery guitar of the brooding metronomic I Quake. The remaining two numbers are both new, The Bad Guys Always Win a piano backed, track with a summery jazzy pop vibe and fingersnapping rhythm and Go, a stripped down, acoustic guitar-accompanied bluesy cover of the 2011 Delilah hit, showing her vocal dexterity and range to good effect.
Also released just before Christmas, Water is the sophomore self-released EP from teenage Birmingham singer-songwriter EMMA-LEE SHEPHERD, the soulful depth and self-assurance of lead track Tide making a striking impression and sounding way beyond her years. She cites Ed Sheehan and Coldplay among her influences, the former evident on Hours and the latter on Lost, but never slavishly so, while the warbling vocals of Denied (a live version of which can be found on https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=avHMS1QLWG0&feature=youtu.be) with its slap guitar percussion suggest Tracy Chapman. Rounded off with a full band demo of Habits, it could have done with a more sympathetic, less booming production, but, while as yet to receive online reviews, it bodes well for her progress in the year ahead.