REVIEW of "If Hawks Were Doves" -

UNCORN MAGAZINE

Sandra Lawes

 

Cambridge based folk-rock band, Red Velvet, will be releasing its latest EP 'If Hawks Were Doves’ on 1 July. All written by members of the band, the six tracks are expertly performed by Deirdre Murphy (lead vocals), Les Ray (acoustic guitar/banjo/backing vocals), Colin R. Smith (drums), Gene Thunderbolt (keyboard/electric guitar) and Mike Udin (bass/backing vocals). Also making a highly accomplished contribution is Sam Inglis, with his excellent work behind the scenes as Sound Engineer and Producer, plus his impressive vocal arrangements, especially on ‘Sad Songs and Wine’.

Dealing with the light and darker sides of life and the positive and negative forces that affect us all, the songs are perfectly attuned to the challenging times we are currently facing. Deirdre's rich melodic voice with its husky undertones reflects the deep emotions and feelings that inspired the lyrics. It's clear that she draws on poignant life experiences to convey the passion within the music.

Deirdre’s vocals are beautifully complemented by the

contributions from the other members of the band - I

particularly loved Colin's rhythmic percussion, Les’ banjo

playing in 'Getting Too Serious', and Gene's fine guitar skills - driving the song along in 'Still Believe in Love'. His outstanding guitar solos in ‘The Last Thing We Need Is Another Love Song’ reminded me of the amazing riffs characteristic of some Dire Straits' performances.

Although laying bare the pain of living and loving, the skilled songwriting also offers hope and optimism - much needed in these desperate times. Despite the regrets, pain and sadness, these are not songs of despair - they are uplifting and inspiring. Uncannily appropriate to the pandemic and lockdown, the songs allude to getting away from our trouble and having a trip to the coast ‘to breathe clean air and feel alive’. 'Gotta getaway to see the sea again....it's getting too serious’ certainly resonated with me, and the mention of spending healing time with friends is something we would all love to do right now!

I was also intrigued by the track ‘Imposter’, referencing a major topic of the moment - 'imposter syndrome’. So many talented, clever people suffer deeply with this affliction - apparently both Deirdre and Les among them - but you certainly wouldn't detect that when you talk with them or listen to their music. Even in this song, the struggle is resolved optimistically, and the destructive demon is beaten into submission.

I thoroughly enjoyed listening to this EP - both for its musicality and for the powerful messages in the lyrics.

REVIEW of "Darkness & the Angels" – FOLKING.COM

 

Recently expanded from their Les Ray and Deirdre Murphy core to a five-piece and, in the process, a more folk-rock, bluesy sound, Cambridge’s RED VELVETlaunch the makeover with the self-released Darkness & The Angels EP, the title hinting at the struggles between the forces of negativity and positivity . Sung by Murphy, the anchor track, ‘Ride The Darkness’, with its carnivalesque waltzing melody, spooked piano and sparse guitar and bass backing, stems from 2011 when both she and her brother, Gerard, were diagnosed with cancer, he sadly succumbing in 2013.

It wasn’t the only tragedy to strike, Ray’s mother passing the same year as Deirdre’s brother, the sense of grief, loss and remembrance providing the lyrical bedrock for the fairground carousel-rhythm Self-Storage which, opening with church organ and sung by Les, tells of building up boxes of photos, diaries and other keepsakes that “tell of our loved ones, our lost ones, ourselves”.

Elsewhere, political notes are struck on ‘After The War’, a piano led reflection on post-WWII optimism with the election of Labour and the creation of the NHS, a period clearly held up in contrast to today’s state of the nation. Much musically heavier with its driving rhythm and snarly guitar, ‘The Fourth Freedom’, the title a reference to the EU’s Four Freedoms, is a heads-down grungy riff-driven number concerning the refugee crisis as a family sees the goods they helped manufacture able to move freely while they are denied permission to travel.

By musical contrast, opening and closing unaccompanied, ‘That’ll Never Happen’ is a jaunty, playful pub piano singalong number with Music Hall and Chas n Dave touches that, as the notes say, revisits a book, a play and a film all featuring unlikely events.

Red Velvet’s launch of the EP “Darkness & the Angels” at the White Horse, Bedford 

Folk rock combo Red Velvet, led by vocalist Deirdre Murphy, launched their new EP Darkness and the Angels at The White Horse in Bedford on Saturday 23rd February 2019. 

 

Regulars at the White Horse will associate the venue with its intimate Monday night jazz sessions, which attract some of the best musicians in the country. No less talent was on display as the band fully exploited the intimacy and easy communication that the performance space affords.

 

Deirdre Murphy is blessed with a naturally lyrical Northern Irish brogue, which connects instantly with the audience. As she introduces each track in her soft contralto, she moves effortlessly from speech to song; Carrickfergusand The Rose lending themselves perfectly to her voice. As well as folk melodies, the band played other well chosen covers revealing their rockier side ‘ Chuck Berry’s ‘ Never Can Tell’ and Dr Feelgood’s  ‘Back in the Night’; Gene Thunderbolt distinguishes himself here by adding some very tasty blues piano licks and slide guitar to add spice. 

 

Centrepiece of the evening, literally, as it was the 2nd of three sets, was the performance of all 5 of the band’s tracks from their new EP. The band are unashamedly political and left leaning, however their politics don’t just cover macro events like Brexit, as in the sardonically ironic ‘That’ll never happen in real life’ and the social commentary of ‘After the War’ (which segues into a chorus of John Lennon’s ‘Give Peace a Chance’), they also deal with personal politics and affairs of the heart and soul. ‘Self-Storage’ belies its gently swinging 6/8 rhythm as it tells of the paraphernalia of a loved one’s life now left behind as part of a bittersweet legacy. The audience listens intently, turn that microphone up! Only those with a swinging brick for a heart were not moved by Deirdre Murphy’s vocal on ‘Ride of Darkness’ a song that deals with the grief at her brother’s illness and death from cancer. 

 

The band complete their 3rd set as the bell rings out for lasties. We’ve been taken through a range of emotions, some heart-wrenching, some heart-warming - time for that drink. 

 

Gerard Atkins

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