May 20, 2024

Chantel McGregor – ‘The Shed Sessions Volume 1 & 2’ – “Bradford’s Blues-Rock Queen does it again”

SELF RELEASED link below review August 2021

A couple of years ago I was lucky enough to catch a set from Chantel McGregor and her band in Bradford and it was a delight. Ripping guitar solos, hard-rocking blues and a voice from the Aire Valley Delta. You might not expect it from a woman whose website waxes lyrical about her high scores in BTec Music at college, but Chantel has blues in the soul and is known for her live sets up and down the country. During lockdown she took to webcasting hour-long sets from home and here we have the albums of the sessions, reflecting the diversity of her tastes. Piano was supplied by Jamie Brooks once lockdown was relaxed by recording stayed wonderfully simple, with a wardrobe serving as a vocal booth. Somehow, after professional mixing and mastering, the results are polished but simple, focussing on the three elements.

Volume One is all covers and acoustic, Volume Two is electric and blends the covers with her own material. Both highlight excellent guitar playing, perfect vocals and piano. On the acoustic set you’ll find a couple of Neil Young songs, Loretta Lynn’s Love Has No Pride and some fascinating reinterpretations: Peter Gabriel’s Sledgehammer becomes a gentle, fingerpicked ballad, while Voodoo Child removes the theatrics and, with a hard strum, becomes a heavy blues. Vocals are expressive but restrained, conveying the feelings in the songs that have become invisible through repetition.

Volume Two has electric guitar and piano but little guitar strangling. Radiohead’s Creep is accompanied by solo piano and is a thoughtful piano shorn of the electric explosion. Stephen Wilson’s Drive Home has underlying drama, Tori Amos’ Winter suits Chantel perfectly. April treats us with a lovely bluesy guitar scramble over floating keys, while Alanis Morissette’s Uninvited is tense and wound tight with sadness underneath like Elvis Costello and a guitar solo barely contained by its seams. Summertime, the Gershwin blues classic is atmospherically slow and full of mood.

Putting the two albums together makes a perfect evening of classics, old and new, celebrating that special time when creativity was unrestrained by touring schedules and yet had to break through the restrictions like grass through a pavement.

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