SHEILA K CAMERON – Those They Chose (Glalell SKC1708CD)

Those They ChoseOver the past couple of years, Sheila K Cameron has completed the reissue of her 7-CD back catalogue and recently released Those They Chose, an album whose artless title reflects the fact that the songs featured were selected for play on the Women Of Substance podcast. It’s typical of Cameron that the title manages to be both very direct and rather oblique at the same time. The songs, which all come from her previous releases, have been remastered for this release.

Beginning in Glasgow, ‘As You Wrapped The String’, opens the album, with gentle lushness, followed by the harmonica blues lope of ‘I Looked Alright This Morning’.

The few covers featured are generally delivered quite sparely and simply, like the short, sweet ‘Drink To Me Only’. ‘The Water Is Deep’ has a quiet determination, but it’s Ewan MacColl’s ‘The First Time Ever’ that really goes somewhere earthy and raw. MacColl famously loathed the various versions of his song, but Cameron invests it with such emotional truth that surely even he would have been persuaded.

Musical arrangements are kept subtle, never overpowering Cameron’s voice. ‘With You In My Life’ is a touching tribute to a partner or friend, backed with gently jazzy brass that brings a touch of the 1950s. A fuzzy Hammond organ sound lurks behind the resolute blues of ‘You Don’t Know My Mind’, while ‘Go On Then’ stretches country-wards.

Cameron’s singing is not pitch-perfect but it’s absolutely authentic, intimate and lived-in, a real voice of experience making a visceral connection. She can be warm, tender and sensual as in ‘My Love Is Velvet’. On ‘Goodbye Baby Blues’ she is darkly world-weary, the long-drawn out delivery of the word ‘choose’ in the line ‘you have left me with no option but to choose these goodbye baby blues’ says everything about the pain beneath the decision. Occasionally, she adopts a semi-spoken approach, well-suited to the poetic repetition in ‘All You Really Need Is The Sea’.

Finishing up in the British Columbian archipelago of Haida Gwaii, Cameron takes her leave (for now) with the reflective, ‘Where The Last Tide Runs’. A steadfast traveller on her own road, Cameron is rare, precious and utterly unique.

Su O’Brien

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Artist website: www.skcsongs.com

‘As You Wrapped The String Around Me’: