Blue Roses

David Wilkinson salutes the talents of Laura Groves, otherwise known as Blue Roses, and finds much to marvel at in her precocious debut album

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A gentle intake of breath opens the debut album of Laura Groves, aka Blue Roses. It’s a gesture that establishes immediate intimacy and a kind of vulnerable trust, but it shouldn’t necessarily be seen as some kind of direct portal into the soul of the singer herself.

For one so young when the album was made, Groves has a canny knack for carefully generating these emotional effects, deploying them skilfully and sparingly throughout. Joni Mitchell once remarked to an interviewer who referred to her work as “confessional” that the assumption was based on gender stereotypes. As a woman, she had been interpreted continually as baring her innermost feelings whether this was the case or not. Sadly it seems we’re little further on today, with one critic who reviewed Blue Roses wishing she’d “get herself a new boyfriend”.

Laura Groves – Bridges from Bandstand Busking on Vimeo.

Lines such as, ‘When I decided/to live the rest of my life from a list/of towns and cities and populations,’ evoke nothing so much as a kind of convivial West Yorkshire take on the Beat vision

It’s a shame to make the comparison with Mitchell, but it seemed necessary to illustrate a point about the frequently sexist reception of emerging female singer-songwriters. The Joni and Kate Bush namedrops which get dragged out are tiresome reminders of how few women pursuing idiosyncratic paths of creativity have managed to succeed in the music industry. Consequently, whenever women artists appear with new visions of their own, they are hamstrung by critics making awkward links to the same small pool of antecedents. Against all the aural evidence these comparisons have already been forced on Blue Roses, despite her vocal lines possessing none of the yelping elasticity which is Bush’s most imitated mannerism, and only the occasional tinge of the jazz-influenced progressions of Mitchell.

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