Lou Rhodes

Beloved One

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Lou Rhodes is best known as the vocalist from the electronic duo Lamb (with Andy Barlow). Beloved One was released on her own Infinite Bloom label in the U.K. in 2006, and short-listed for the Mercury Prize. Beloved One stands in stark contrast to Rhodes' work with Lamb. More often than not she's accompanied by an acoustic guitar -- her own -- strings, minimal organic percussion, a piano here and there, acoustic double bass, and more. Rhodes digs deep into the blessings of modern life. From "Each Moment New," the set's opening track, there is an aesthetic at work: one of naked honesty, carefully regarded optimism, and the courage to look forward while treasuring what it took to arrive in the present. The woman sings about pain as a necessity for rebirth, death for resurrection, the blessings in each day, though ultimately the only thing that matters is love. It comes through without maudlin sentiment or glib platitudes. In fact, these songs are rife with the hard truth of self-discovery, feeling as if they were written in the moment--most of the lyrics it turns out, were. "Tremble," with its swirling cellos in the backdrop and a melody worthy of Rickie Lee Jones at most open, is a portrait of love as it washes over the singer. "Fortress," with its English folk overtones, is as taut a song about the emotional death of the heart as has been written recently. Its circular melody, framed by an arco double bass, cellos, and hand percussion take it down the path where Waterson Carthy sups with Richard Thompson. "Inlakesh" is as free-form love song with a syncopated rhythm as behind-the-beat hand drums and a floating refrain wind together. "Why," the final cut on the set offers decidedly bigger production feels no less organic in execution. It's got the Lamb beat sensibility sans loops. The gain in her vocal moans, soars and swoops. After a four silence comes a brief a cappella lullaby. Of the three bonus cuts on the American edition of Beloved One one is co-written by Barlow: a tender, jazzy little ballad. The other two are love songs -- one literal, one figurative -- meaning there is resurrection after death. And the last track here, "The End," is an affitmative number fit for a pub sing. In fact, this glorious little record feels, with its few melancholy moments, as if there is an unbridled belief in the redemption of the moment, in the belief that possibility as revealed in song, is endless, without giddiness or gimmick. And Beloved One is loaded with good songs. Rhodes is a gifted melodist. She understands how to write for the strengths in her voice and leave the rest. She's no slouch as a guitarist either. Encountered earnestly, Beloved One is difficult to forget.

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