All too rarely an album appears from an artist unknown to the listener and it completely captivates you, last year precisely that happened when Scottish singer-songwriter released ‘Come Closer’. A wonderful introduction to her blend of Country, Folk & Americana which effortlessly earned a place in the NCUK Top 20 Albums of 2014. This month sees the follow-up release ‘Fool Like Me’, a 10-track collection which showcases Manns as an artist perfectly honing her own unique sound and in the process delivering an even stronger record.
‘Vincent Black Magic’ gets things off to a spirited start, rattling along at a breathless pace driven by fine picking and wonderful sawing fiddle. Over the top of a hectic musical backdrop are the smooth, hugely charming vocals of Manns, always completely in control of the song. The more mainstream sounding ‘Invisible’ offers a hint of danger with its’ nervous chords, and insistent drumbeat. Those who are reluctant to let their guard down and allow all aspects of their personality to be seen will relate to its cleverly written lyrics.
The sumptuous ‘Juliet’ is one of the sweetest songs you will have heard in some time, the musical equivalent of a warm hug on a winter’s night. Appealing to a runaway child to return to her family, the track allows Manns to bewitch the listener with a gorgeous vocal, hinting at the desperation felt by those in the song for the safe return of the titular girl. Current single ‘Broken Heart’ with its electric guitar riff and hooky chorus is a wonderful slice of Country-pop deserving of widespread airplay. Deceptively simple but infinitely listenable.
Gently paced, with its leisurely electric guitar and strings, ‘Walking You Home’ is another example of the singer’s unerring ability to take those emotions / situations experienced by all of us and craft a song that sounds like it was written personally for us. A tale of stolen moments and biding your time in relationships, it could serve as a lesson to many. ‘Bonnie & Clyde’ boasts soaring electric guitar and a dazzling chorus as Manns defiantly stands her ground in search of a love to sweep her off of her feet. Elegantly sung and with a perfectly-pitched larger production sound it proves to be one of the album’s highlights.
In contrast ‘Lullaby’ is a delicately performed ballad, dominated by acoustic guitar, brushed percussion & Manns’ graceful vocals. As you may expect from its’ title the song has an incredibly calming effect, as it entices you in and the beauty of the track flows over you. ‘Fool Like Me’ not only provides the title cut of the album it also proves to be just about the catchiest tune the singer has delivered to date. The knowing ‘only a fool would love you, a fool like me‘ refrain perfectly captures the helplessness felt when you simply cannot let go in a relationship. Countering the anguish of the lyrics is a playful melody, sizzling electric guitar & enthralling vocal dexterity from Manns.
‘Sloe Gin’ is a track which originally appeared on Stephanie’s ‘Sweethearts and Angels’ EP from 2012, and one well worth re-visiting. Sounding better than ever, the soft-shuffle of a ballad is undeniable proof of the growth of the artist since its’ debut, a gorgeous effort. Final track ‘Last Train Home’ is a stirring send off, as the gently restrained verse gives way to a triumphant chorus in a song that initially looked set to give in to heartbreak but instead paints the picture of a woman determined to move on to better times.
Across its’ ten tracks ‘Fool Like Me’ presents Stephanie Manns as one of the most exciting rising talents on the UK roots music scene. A songwriter of undeniable talent, having penned all of the songs here, Manns has a wonderful lyrical economy making it effortless for the listener to immediately relate to & empathise with her material. Equally adept at crafting a hooky mainstream toe-tapper (‘Broken Heart’), as an incredibly moving ballad (‘Juliet’). With a warm & hugely charming vocal delivery, Stephanie sings straight to the heart of the listener and earns her own little space within it.
‘Fool Like Me’ is released on 23rd February and is available for pre-order now. Stephanie will be performing at London’s O2 Arena as part of Country To Country 2015, on Saturday 7th March at 2.10pm on the Saloon Stage.