# A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z

Megan Henwood - Head, Heart, Hand

  by Malcolm Carter

published: 12 / 8 / 2015

Megan Henwood - Head, Heart, Hand
Label: Dharma Records
Format: CD


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

It has taken Oxfordshire singer-songwriter Megan Henwood four years to follow up her critically acclaimed debut, ‘Making Waves’, but the wait has been worth it. Along with her brother, Joe (who co-produced this album with Megan and Tom Excell), Megan won the BBC Radio 2 Young Folk Award in 2009, and, although her debut embraced so much more than that folk music tag indicated, this latest collection takes Megan’s music even further away from those boundaries. ‘Head, Heart, Hand’ is a darker album than Megan’s debut. It deals with death, rejection, and some of the most astute lyrics ever written about the wiles of a young girl that have ever been committed to tape in ‘Our Little Secret’. It’s a collection of songs that embraces so many different themes and styles it should really be a complete shambles, but, by choosing unlikely co-creators who understand her vision (Tom Excell is a bass and drum DJ) and instruments like the cello and viola to colour her songs, unexpected sounds leap out from every track. It’s akin to Paul Simon following up ‘The Paul Simon Songbook’ with ‘Graceland’, an album that comes to mind more than once when listening to ‘Head, Heart, Hand’. It seems that much has changed in Megan Henwood’s world in the four years since her debut, and her experiences have helped a promising talent develop into a major one. The title of this album is repeated during the final minutes of the closing track, ‘Painkiller’, an incredibly moving (both lyrically and musically) tribute to a family member. Like much of ‘Head, Heart, Hand’, the haunting qualities of the song linger in the mind long after the song has finished. The percussion, simple and subdued, coupled with upright bass, cello and viola, frames Megan’s poignant words beautifully and effectively. When a choir appears at the end of the song, the emotion builds which drives Megan to express herself so powerfully vocally it leaves the listener almost breathless. It’s a superb way to end the album and no doubt a lot of thought went behind that decision. In contrast the opening song, ‘Love Loathe’, is a jaunty affair, and while the changes that the song goes through give notice that ‘Head, Heart, Hand’ is going to be an interesting journey it’s also the one song that appears to lose some of its appeal after repeated plays. The following song, ‘Grateful Ghost’, while using the same trick of tempo changes as the opener and developing from a sparsely-backed opening verse through a heart-wrenchingly beautiful chorus into a richer sound is much more successful and rewarding over time. It appears that Megan has many ideas floating about for her songs and sound, and, thankfully, along with her collaborators, they actually manage to combine them all successfully, in the space of each song, to create a unique sound that is still immediately accessible. ‘Chemicals’ shows yet another side to this talented musician, and, almost an apology to a former lover for breaking up the relationship, Megan’s vocals display unexpected tenderness in her delicate delivery. If the person in question doesn’t melt when hearing Megan sing “ I was going to be your angel/ No wings grew from my shoulders/No halo hanging over these red curls”, then he or she had better check his pulse. While ‘Making Waves’ revealed that Megan Henwood was already an accomplished lyricist, the leap she has made in her songwriting in just four years is astonishing. “I didn’t mean to turn your yellows grey/But the chemicals inside my body were telling me to walk away”, from the above mentioned song, poignantly sung by Megan, is just one indication of how far Megan has come in the years between her albums. But maybe it’s the previously mentioned ‘Our Little Secret’ that should be singled out for special attention. The way that Megan describes an innocent schoolgirl blackmailing an older man after a moment of weakness on his part is chilling and by the end of the song your predetermined sympathies have changed sides. It’s an extraordinary piece of songwriting, perfectly executed by all concerned. ‘Lead Balloon’ is yet another hauntingly beautiful track, Megan’s fragile vocals vying with that sorrowful cello again for your attention. The promise shown with ‘Making Waves’ has been fulfilled with this latest collection of songs. The whole album is one of the most diverse, compelling and instantly accessible sets to come this way in a while and it’s been up against some strong competition.

Track Listing:-
1 Love / Loathe
2 Grateful Ghost
3 Chemicals
4 These Walls
5 Rose Red
6 Rose Red
7 No Good No Fun
8 Our Little Secret
9 Puppet and the Songbird
10 Fall and Fade
11 Lead Balloon
12 Painkiller
13 Dark Debt
14 My Ego My Shadow and I
15 Four Words
16 This Woman's Work

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