Chantel McGregor – ‘Lose Control’ Album Review

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Whilst ‘like no other’ proved to be a remarkable success for Chantel McGregor, the ‘young artist of the year’ at the British Blues awards, the reality is that the album was a bit of a collection, covering tunes that had been written both before and after Chantel had attended university, so it is no surprise that Chantel has taken the view that ‘lose control’ is far more like a first album than its predecessor. This is not to diminish the charms of the wonderful ‘like no other’, but you can immediately see Chantel’s point as ‘lose control’ is a much more cohesive and confident album that takes elements of southern gothic and nails them to a crushing hard blues framework  that comes roaring form the speakers.

From the nervy, brutal riff that opens ‘take the power’ it’s easy to see why Chantel has won so many awards. Her voice, cruelly distorted, rides high over a surging riff only for a sweeter vocal to take the chorus to new heights of ecstasy, and you’re hooked on a ten track album that maintains a remarkable consistency throughout. Whilst still varied musically, Chantel has put a great deal of work into giving the album a unique feel that’s all its own and, as a truly blistering solo wails over  the latter stages of ‘take the power’ you realise that you are in the presence of greatness. Keeping the momentum ‘your fever’ has a massive riff powering it from the get go, whilst Chantel’s voice wraps itself, in a serpentine fashion, around the listener as violins shiver and quake. Already noted as a gifted song writer, Chantel has moved to a new level with sensual monsters like ‘your fever’ and her delivery, part PJ Harvey part Kate Bush, is enough to send shivers down the spine whilst Keith McPartling’s drums propel the whole thing forward with remorseless precision.   Sonically different, although still packing a punch, ‘burn your anger’ has a gritty, winding riff and a pop-infused chorus that lodges itself deep in your brain for days. In contrast ‘Anaesthetize’ is an unutterably beautiful, stripped-down number that sees Chantel’s voice ringing out over a simple acoustic guitar, and it’s all the more haunting when the rich, brooding sound of the cello (and later the violin) is introduced. As an arrangement it’s subtle and it builds delightfully, but what is really being showcased here is Chantel’s wondrous voice which is stunningly intimate throughout. You could lose yourself for days in that voice, and ‘anaesthetize’ is all the better for standing in contrast to the blistering riffs found elsewhere.

Having wrapped the listener in the fine gossamer of ‘anaesthetize’, Chantel and her band snap you out of your reverie with the spirited ‘southern Belle’ and, better still, the taut groove of the title track with its stinging lead and gritty vocal. Chantel endlessly impresses with her ability to move from soulful croon to sassy rock singer and back on the drop of a dime whilst her riffs are remarkably potent. Another contemplative piece, ‘home’ flies on wings made of silk through the night, with Gilmour-esque lead work and the sweet strings of the violin drawing the listener like a moth to a flame only for the energetic workout of ‘killing time’ to let the cold light of day stream in once more. This is Chantel in full-on rock goddess mode, and whilst her solos may remain tethered to the blues, the riffs here are heavy as hell and designed to hit the audience like a hurricane. Building the tension with a nice minor key riff, ‘Eternal dream’ is a cross between Jeff Buckley and Tori Amos, as beautiful and skewed as that combination may sound, and then the album, all too quickly, draws to a close with the haunting harmonies and mind-bending solo of ‘walk on land’, an epic closer that neatly sums up the album’s strongest qualities in one shining moment of musical brilliance that suggests that we have yet to hear Chantel reach her full potential.

When Chantel describes her latest effort as a ‘debut’, it’s not to be dismissive of ‘like no other’, rather it’s an acknowledgement that that album was pieced together from material written over as number of years. This album, initially written in ten weeks, does a much better job of showcasing the point to which Chantel’s musical evolution has thus far led her. Intelligent, cohesive and atmospheric it’s a far better album than ‘like no other’ and it perfectly conjures up the southern gothic feel which is referenced in the artwork and press notes. On a much simpler level, ‘lose control’ is just a great album. Stripped of analysis, there are songs to rock out to and gorgeous, haunting ballads that find their way into your dreams and through it all the two key factors – Chantel’s stunning voice and her equally stunning guitar work – remain ubiquitous. It’s not a virtuoso album, the song-writing is too good, too cohesive for that, but Chantel is a virtuoso, and all the evidence points to her only just getting started. ‘Lose control’ is a stunning album, and it seems highly likely that the accolades will be even more swift in their arrival than with the previous effort. Whether you’re a fan or whether you’re new to Chantel McGregor, you need to lose yourself in ‘lose control’, it’s an amazing record.

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