“Don’t leave me like this, I might explode” Hannah Aldridge sings on opening song Aftermath. But that is what Hannah does across the ten tracks on Gold Rush, this her second album. She explodes into your musical experience, embedding herself in your psyche and richly rewarding you with every repeated play.
This review is a couple of months late, but that is not a good reason for this recording to be ignored.
I loved her debut Razor Wire, but this album takes her music forward. For me there is a strong Tom Petty vibe on this record, but she also reminds me of singers like Etta James and Anne Peebles, with flavours of soul and gospel coming through to produce a fabulous blend that draws upon her Muscle Shoals roots to create a confection of sound that is very much her own and she has produced an album that rewards repeated listening. But in contradiction to what I’ve just written and mixing my metaphors, this album is no compound, but consists of ten nuggets of pure gold.
So to the music: what has struck me with Gold Rush, and I’m not sure why I didn’t notice it previously, is what great singer Hannah is. In terms of her tone, control, range and the emotional truth she explores and uncovers in her lyrics, she really is a great singer.
Aftermath opens with a further nod to the Stones “I was born in a crossfire…”, but this is more Petty than Stones. It builds and builds “I wanna love you, but I’m caught in the aftermath” before ending on a diminuendo, repeating the opening. A superb opener that sets a standard for the rest of what is to come.
Next up is “Dark Hearted Woman” which is where the Etta James comparison manifests itself. A really dense sound. “You better run, you better run, you better hide, She’s got a soul the devil himself wouldn’t buy”, not for the last time in this collection Hannah explores our deepest desires and makes them sound absolutely irresistible.
Burning Down Birmingham takes a different tack - with a gospel inspired chorus backing her, the inspiration for this is less than heavenly, but you’ll have to go and see one of her gigs to hear why she wants to start a conflagration in the Alabama city.
A quartet of love songs that explore a number of very different aspects of this emotion. The Irony Of Love about love not being there when it should be; Shouldn’t Hurt So Bad where the TP&H vibe manifests itself again and the song title explains the content, No Heart Left Behind is more like a Replacements song asking for that “one more try” so that “tonight the lonely will survive” and finally, the loveliest song on the album Living On Lonely - “it’s a slow and sweet surrender, letting go of ever being free”.
Perhaps the most deceptive song on the album is Lace. So what do you expect from a title like that? Something polite? Damn no!! It starts with a simple, strummed guitar that leads to a half whispered sensuous vocal from Hannah “… come here sugar, I’ll settle you down and wrap you in poison and lace…” leads to ““I like my my whisky how I like my men, right on the tip of my tongue … I think I’ve fallen in lust…” Whaaaat? Please, excuse me, but I have to go and take a cold shower. There are no explicit lyrics here but it’s a song that is certificate X. This is the sexiest song I’ve heard for a long, long time “Kiss me like you own me, hold me like a heathen…”. "You want to know what the devil feels like?" Mistress, your wish is my command. The backing is intense, guitar and piano led with a chorus of devilish angels. It’s an experience. A fantastic experience, it’s the longest song on the album at over six minutes, but give me more. Please!
And so things settle down for the final track, the titular Gold Rush. After the intensity of Lace it allows us to wind down opening with acoustic guitar, joined by pedal steel.
I was confounded by the tenor of this song. With the title Gold Rush, I was expecting a song of anticipation and excitement but instead it’s a tale of disillusionment.
It slowly builds, telling a story of homecoming for Christmas - with lines like “I don’t know if this is living or slow motion suicide, There’s something about Christmas that makes me blur the line” or “We hold onto our heartache like a noose around our necks”.
And that of course is the truth of a Gold Rush - thousands travel with high hopes but most find their hopes confounded. The lucky few strike it rich.
So on the note of striking it rich - investing your money in this disc will yield rich reward. Hannah Aldridge is one of the very best young songwriters around and you really can spend your money and not feel shortchanged.
There is no futile search for precious metals here, a rich vein of pure 24 carat gold runs through these compositions from first to last.