Nottingham’s Harleighblu (her real name, by the way) is shaping up to become the new poster girl of Brit soul. With radio support from people like Craig Charles, Trevor Nelson, Huey Morgan and Don Letts and mainstream broadsheet coverage, 2013 looks set to be Harleighblu’s year. With typical modesty we need to say that SJF was one of the very first media outlets to feature the feisty 21 year old. Back in Spring we drew your attention to her debut single, ‘Play Me’. We described it as an “edgy slab of shifting street soul with a contemporary edge and the slurred but committed vocal style made popular by dear old Amy Winehouse”... adding that the track’s inherent soulfulness was clear evidence that young Harleighblu had learned a lot from her savvy parents’ extensive soul and jazz record collection.
Now we have the debut album and the above comments remain pertinent. The 11 tracker is as described – edgy, committed, contemporary, soulful and redolent of Amy Winehouse. The two opening tracks leave you in no doubt that the singer and her people were working from an Amy Winehouse template. ‘Enough Now’ could be an outtake from the ‘Frank’ era… it’s a bumpy, jazzy groove with lots going on; it’s the slurred vocal, though, that shows what the team are aiming for. ‘Casanova’ offers more of the same, though this tune is a deal bigger and certainly brasher. ‘How Deep Is Your Love’ (not the bee Gees song, by the way) is another Amy Winehouse ringer as are the above mentioned ‘Play Me’ and the gritty ‘Sittin’ By The Window’. More interesting are the tracks on which Ms H offers something a little different. I’m thinking here of the quite lovely ‘This Way’. The album’s biggest production – with strings and things, it shimmers quite beautifully. The mellower ‘Love Of My Life’ breaks away from the Winehouse influence too and is that much better for it.
Bravest tune on the album is a cover of the Eurhythmics’ ‘Who’s That Girl’. Not as bombastic as the original, it features broken percussion and an electronic garnish. Different enough to the original but still recognizable, no wonder it’s winning airplay on BBC Radio 2 and with that kind of support Harleighblu has a decent chance of making it, though time will tell if we’re ready yet for someone to fill the void left by Amy Winehouse’s sad death.