Hailey Tuck – Alcohol/Junk

Until yesterday, Hailey Tuck was a name that had passed me by. Maybe I’d seen the label ‘soft jazz covers’ and thought that her music wouldn’t be for me. But how wrong I’ve been? 

 

She’s been around for a while, an American still in her 20’s who has spent the best part of a decade living in Paris and reconnecting with a time that was altogether more glamorous. Sporting a beautiful bobbed haircut and giving the impression that she means every syllable that she purposefully utters, it was the video to a track from her forthcoming (and debut) album, Junk, out in May that got me foaming at the mouth. 

I’m a fan of The Kinks and firmly believe that Ray Davies is a songwriting genius. It’s fair to say though that his tune, Alcohol, from the Muswell Hillbillies album might never be considered a classic of their catalogue. However, Hailey Tuck has scrubbed the song down, added extra clarity to the slightly muffled vocal of the original and come up with a tune tinged with beautiful sadness. When she sings ‘who thought I would fall a slave to demon alcohol?’, you believe her every word. 

I had to get a copy of the album and promptly requested a preview copy. 

‘Why don’t you shut the door and close the curtains?’, asks Jarvis Cocker in Pulp’s fine tune, Underwear. In their version, it’s the sound of a seedy Sheffield, bedsits off Bramall Lane. But Hailey transforms the song and its meaning into a slightly skewed but perfect love song. Her voice is truly to die for.

 

Underwear falls towards the end of this most astonishing of listening experiences. I’ve never really been one for cover versions or tribute acts but on Junk, Hailey (and her fine band of jazz players) take us through an eclectic mix never once dropping a beat. From soul to folk originals, she turns Solomon Burke into Peggy Lee and Broadway musical-tunes into heart-wrenching ballads that you want to hear again and again. 

‘I fought against the bottle but I had to do it drunk’, sings Hailey in the opening track of the record, her cover of the Leonard Cohen song, ‘That don’t make it Junk’. Battles against addiction do surface from time to time, perhaps nowhere more so than in her exquisite cover of Colin Blunstone’s ‘Say You Don’t Mind’. Hailey knows that the word ‘wining/whining’ has double-meaning when she pleads to be forgiven for her wrongdoing in this classic. 

Ultimately, this is an exercise in taking old tunes from a range of genres and finding something new, immediate and exciting within. Her art form (soft jazz covers) might be as old as the hills but Tuck breathes and invigorates new life into it.

We’re at the final track of the album – a cover of Paul McCartney’s Junk. ‘Something old and new, memories for me and you’, sings Hailey and you suspect that sums up her modus operandi. 

Make no mistake though – this record is far from junk. 

 

Belly Of Paris – Aristide’s Entry Into Paris

Festival season is pretty much done and dusted for another year. Autumn is all about getting healthy, losing weight in time for Christmas and making attempts to save a few pennies so that we can do it all again next year. 

Trouble is, these plans never quite come to fruition. There’s still three more festivals to cover before the year is out. And there’s a mass of gigs coming up in Leicester that I plan to review for the Mercury. 

But Sonic Breakfast must rise from the smouldering embers again. Poorly populated for much of this year, it’s a crying shame because so much great music has been sent my way.

Take today’s offering – Belly Of Paris were one of the bands to feature on a recent Fresh On The Net listening post. Regular SB readers will know that I love to spend a Saturday morning, chilling in bed, choosing five from the twenty-five. Belly Of Paris were a shoe-in with their decadent, literate and darkly glamorous tune, Aristide’s entry into Paris.

 

 I found myself speculating as to who the Aristide in question was. Could it have been the bohemian Aristide Bruant? My mind wanders to cafe-concerts, Toulouse Lautrec and the well known image of Bruant as he performs in Montmartre. His songs, bawdy and gentle teases and tugs at working class culture and his ‘eccentric masculinity’.

  

Bruant insisted that his performances were a strike against the bourgeoisie, calling his audience:

  . . the pile of idiots who do not understand what I sing to them, who cannot understand, not knowing what it is to die from hunger, those who have come to the world with a silver spoon in their mouths. I revenge myself in insulting them, in treating them worse than dogs. That makes them laugh to tears; they believe I joke when, often enough, it is a breeze from the past, miseries submitted to, dirtiness seen, which remounts on my lips and makes me speak as I do.

 But this is all an aside of course, as interesting as it is. Belly Of Paris might be singing about a different Aristide. 

 I received an E-mail from Daniel, lead singer and songwriter in Belly Of Paris. They do seem to share much with Bruant – a band bulging with multi-layered and complex stories. As Daniel notes, “Belly of Paris are a “doom cabaret” Indo-Anglo-Palestino-Hungaro-Argentine sextet based in the tiny island of Bahrain (don’t ask us how we all got there, we don’t remember). We’re releasing our debut album ‘Peste’ on November 7th.”

 Give them a listen – I think you’ll enjoy it.