Friday 15 September 2017

Returned From Sea

Amanda, Heather, Sophie and Jonathan

At the age of 41 I still have dreams about being in a band. This band tends to be a 4-piece - 2 guitars, bass and drums and be a kind of indie guitar pop band like The Lemonheads or Teenage Fanclub, with the odd 11-minute psychedelic wig out or detour into electronica.

But last night I watched Sister John play the first of 2 sold out shows at The Hug and Pint to celebrate the release of their stunning debut album Returned From Sea and wished I could be in a band like theirs.

A band that can play slow, with tender care, pull off 4 part harmonies with ease; a band that can jam, choose super cool covers by having super cool taste, swap instruments, sound like angels and write truly beautiful songs.

So yeah, I'm a fan and The Hug and Pint show was superb.

Returned From Sea 
Stunning artwork by Brian Sweeney

Returned From Sea is warm, lush, sublime, beautiful and wonderful. As I type I'm listening to Rider On The Hill when the band just play on with gorgeous oooh oooh oooh oooh's sounding heavenly.

Opener Thinner Air will pull you in in a heartbeat, you're immediately in Sister John's world. It feels kind of familiar but new, you'll definitely like it. Single Sweetest Moment flows sweetly and freely, sounding impossibly easy and pure.

Singer and songwriter Amanda McKeown has an incredible voice that she uses wisely - whispering, soaring, using all her power at times, taking it right back at others.

How good are they? The first time I heard Backstreet Swimmers I wondered who they were covering. I felt the same with Try To Be Good. Was it an old Neil Young or Gram Parson song?

No, both were written by Amanda and with help from her exceptionally talented band - Jonathan Lilley on guitars, keys, bass, harmonica, percussion and backing vocals; Heather Phillips on violin and backing vocals and Sophie Pragnell on viola, drums, percussion and backing vocals - they are both gems.

I see you everyday and I think of the sun
If there's a simple thing I can do it now
And when I write it down
I can try to be good

Returned From Sea is an album with real depth. Dive in, stay in, the water is warm and soothing.

The inside gatefold sleeve

See You Again is almost like a lullaby, so tender, so beautiful, so simple - but yet so clever. The slide guitar is spine tinglingly slow and beautiful.

One of my live favourites from The Hug and Pint was Sister John's Dream, it was quite Velvets-y. Swallowed The Moon was also a live highlight with Amanda introducing the song by asking everyone to think of someone that has pulled them through at some point. Amanda pours her heart and soul on to vinyl; you can hear it and feel it.

This is such a strong album; 12-songs that are all really beautiful. Amanda McKeown is a special talent - as are her band.

Listen to the violin and viola sound like they are weeping on Friends and then listen to Amanda's heartbreaking fragile voice and then feel a tingle down your spine - wow! Very special.

We're the same
We chose the sun
But saw the rain

Gone is another stunner. He Came Down is just beautiful. It's hard to capture just how special this album is. So listen yourself.

Search on Spotify to stream immediately but do yourself a favour and order the gatefold vinyl from the Last Night From Glasgow website.

Sister John will be playing more shows; those announced are; 04/11 Braemar Gallery, Braemar and 19/11 Voodoo Rooms, Edinburgh

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