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Megan Henwood - River

  by Malcolm Carter

published: 23 / 12 / 2017

Megan Henwood - River
Label: Dharma Records
Format: CD


Third album from Oxfordshire-based singer-songwriter Megan Henwood finds her continuing the journey she started on her 2011 debut album and considerably expanding her folk base in the process

Megan Henwood follows up 2015’s ‘Head, Heart, Hands’ with her third album, the aptly titled ‘River’. Henwood’s love of the water inspired the songs on ‘River’; her connections with Oxford and Cornwall have strengthened her childhood fascination with rivers and the sea. One song in particular, ‘The Dolly’, will resonate with occupants of Oxford and highlights Henwood’s love of the city and surrounding areas. Henwood first came to notice after winning the BBC’s Young Folk Musician of the Year in 2009 with her brother Joe. Henwood was just twenty when she won that award yet already showed signs that here was a songwriter wise beyond her years. It’s been mentioned that this latest collection of a dozen songs is Henwood’s most mature work yet; while it does show some progression her previous work was hardly made up of nursery rhymes, Henwood has always shown maturity beyond her years a listen to any one of the songs on her previous albums will confirm this; she’s also not afraid to tackle sensitive subjects and look at them from a different angle either. ‘Our Little Secret’ from ‘Head, Heart, Hands’ is confirmation of this. Using the same producer as before, Tom Excell, Henwood’s sound hasn’t changed so much from her last two albums. It’s a natural next step in some ways; the mix of electronica and folk has become something of a Henwood/Excell trademark and few produce a better fusion that these two talents. Lyrically Henwood has always shone but even so there are lines scattered throughout ‘River’ that stop the listener in their tracks. ‘Apples’ is one of the most affecting songs lyrically. Henwood has a knack of placing the listener directly into the song. Her way with words and her talent of making the listener actually feel what her characters are experiencing is remarkable. But it’s not only her lyrics that set Henwood apart. The use of double bass and cello play a large part in the overall sound while never being overbearing and taking too much attention away from her vocals. The album opens with the haunting ‘Join the Dots’, a sparsely accompanied ballad until the chorus comes in which will be ringing in your head for the rest of the day. Vocally Henwood sounds stronger than how we remember her vocals to be on her previous album; it’s like she’s not just reaching for new heights but actually found and is exploring them. It’s a brilliant way to start the album and captures the attention from the off and then it just keeps getting better and better. The atmospheric ‘Fresh Water’, basically a love song which uses Henwood’s fascination with water as a metaphor, has an absolute killer of a chorus, totally unexpected given the introduction to the song and an indication of just how well producer and artist work together. This partnership is also highlighted on ‘Seventh’ in which the touches of organ and little electronic sounds all go someway to display that Henwood has indeed made steps forward since her first album and, yes, it is a mature piece of work, but that has always been evident in Henwood’s music right from her very first album. ‘House on the Hill’ is another atmospheric track, Henwood’s vocals here display a lighter tone, the wordless vocal section is particularly affecting. There are neat vocal touches on every track. Highlighting just a handful of standout performances is pointless when every song is as strong as those on ‘River’. It’s a hauntingly beautiful collection of songs. To say ‘River’ is Henwood’s best set of songs to date is taking something away from her previous two albums which, even years later, still stand up and are as strong as this latest collection. So, although ‘River’ comes highly recommended, it’s really the latest in a trilogy of Megan Henwood albums that you need to own. While songs such as ‘Oh Brother’ are not just lyrically strong - “You wore a necklace the day you arrived/They cut it off and so you survived/All the attention belonged to me until you appeared/ I had them all to myself and then you interfered” - abut musically innovative and need to be heard the same can be said for all of Megan Henwood’s back catalogue. Start here if you must but grab those other two albums too for the full pictur.

Track Listing:-
1 Join the Dots
2 Fresh Water
3 The Dolly
4 Seventh
5 Apples
6 House on the Hill
7 Rainbows
8 Peace Be the Alien
9 Oh Brother
10 Used to Be so Kind
11 The Craftsman
12 L'appel du Vide

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Interview (2016)
Megan Henwood - Interview
Owen Peters comes across Oxfordshire-based singer-songwriter Megan Henwood by chance. Delving into her music in more detail, he is left wondering is she is 'a secret' about to be discovered?



Head, Heart, Hand (2015)
With a four year gap between her debut and this latest album, Oxfordshire-based singer-songwriter Megan Henwood shows that in leaving behind her folk roots and covering some serious and disturbing themes that the time was not wasted

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