A young performer with one ear turned the way of the soulful end of the Motown spectrum...
Mike Diver 2009-08-24
The latest young female vocalist to emerge from the Mike Batt songwriting stable, Florence Rawlings is a 20-year-old performer with one ear turned the way of the soulful end of the Motown spectrum, another towards the chart-dominating dilutions of modern pop chanteuses.
Batt previously masterminded the breakthrough of Katie Melua, some time after initially discovering the joys of considerable remuneration via writing for The Wombles. His work with Rawlings straddles the divide, narrow though it is, between the The Closest Thing to Crazy singer and the Bernard Butler-produced Duffy, and this resulting debut long-player predictably plays things safe by mixing so-so originals with choice covers, each arranged to suit the mood of its parent record and, ultimately, come across as Batt originals.
Of these covers, Rawlings’ take on Allen Toussaint’s Riverboat is satisfyingly smoky, the singer’s range never stretched to breaking by the elderly American composer’s work (he’s also been covered by The Band, Robert Palmer and The Pointer Sisters, to give you some idea of his appeal). Its only fault is a misplaced electric guitar, which appears midway, fiddles with itself and promptly disappears again, never to return. That, and the song’s fade out breaks all records, prompting the suggestion that if you don’t know how best to end a song, don’t record it.
A jaunty version of Ike Turner’s A Fool in Love is almost breezy enough to have one overlook that whole slapping-his-wife-around side of the late songwriter’s character, and if Rawlings introduces a handful of pre-teen fans to the guitar wizardry of Chuck Berry through her chirpy cover of Can’t Catch Me, then she deserves a hearty handshake. It is odd, though, that Batt’s elected to pair one of his youngest prodigies with two men who weren’t shy of brushes with the law; it’s almost as if the Dramatico head’s after a little of the controversy that undoubtedly made Amy Winehouse the household name she is today, albeit through association rather than fist-fights and drug busts.
Though the originals, including single Hard to Get, are fairly forgettable, Rawlings’ strong voice – yet to fully mature one feels, but finding its way there via safe, comfortable song-craft – highlights her talent as one that’s sure to grow.