London based Hannah White has gathered a fine crew around her for her latest album, Elephant Eye. Producer Nigel Stonier (Thea Gilmore, Martha Wainwright, Joan Baez) plays several instruments, Chris J Hillman adds pedal steel while Jimmy Forres handles guitar duties and Paul Beavis (Andy Fairweather Low, Sandi Thom) is the percussionist driving them on.
Together they deliver a very polished album with songs ranging from delicate country tinged ballads, political songs and harder edged numbers. White sings well, her voice high and light, at times reminiscent of Dolly Parton, not least on the single taken from the album, In It For Love. There are some fine moments here. Get Your Easy On is a tremendous performance, the band in a country rock/pop vein, locking into a groove with the pedal steel wailing away while Exactly My Choice has a hint of Byrds like guitar chiming behind White’s plaintive vocals. Please Don’t Take My Daddy Away dips into Imelda May territory with its louche late night vamp. Molly’s Drum is an evocative number with a childlike simplicity about it, the lyrics perhaps hinting that we are peeking into an autistic sensibility and there’s an element of vulnerability (physical and emotional) in the tip toeing pace of The Bells Always Toll with Hillman’s playing here just excellent, enveloping the song in a warm swoon.
There are times however when the songs become somewhat formulaic. Elephant Eye is a strong performance but it strives just too hard to be a folk anthem of sorts. Your Country Is Not At War meanwhile is a political diatribe that rarely rises above sloganeering while Where Has All The Sharing Gone is a rare stumble from the band who play a folksy shuffle which just doesn’t shuffle enough with the song sounding like a tired Christmas celebration.