HOLLIE HAINES – Letters To My Last Love (own label)

Letters To My Last LoveHollie Haines is a songwriter and singer from London who I’ve not come across before, so I had no idea what to expect from this first release although I assumed that with a title like Letters To My Last Love it wasn’t going to be an album of drinking songs.  There also isn’t a title track so what I found was a concept album, over seven songs, with a good story arc relating the breakup of a relationship and the establishment of a new one.  It follows the standard format of a change curve that anybody who has studied management theory would recognise.

Opening the album are three songs that very much represent the denial that comes with realising that things aren’t right.  ‘Except For You’ has the narrator in a relationship that appears to provide the only stability in her life and where everyone leaves her apart from the significant other but even here there’s a feeling something is going wrong.  This is the most downbeat song on the album, with an almost pleading sense of need to it.  The next track ‘Like I Used To’ is the end of the relationship when she finally realises she never knew the person at all and with ‘All You Did’ comes the  time to make a break and with it the recriminations.  It’s a song that’s both bitter and heartbreaking in equal measure.

Track 4, ‘Since You’ve Been Gone’, is not a cover but a rather lovely song about finding yourself on your own and the fear that comes with it.  There’s also that siren voice saying that perhaps things weren’t so bad after all, and certainly no worse than they are now.

After that comes the acceptance and the start of moving on.  In ‘I Got Through, Babe’ there’s the realisation that the worse is over, she got through the pain and is making a new start, even to the extent of sending the ex’s things back.  Finally there’s a glimmer of hope and the tone of the music changes to a more upbeat tempo and stronger voice.  Things get ‘Better’ on track six lifts and the pace lifts even more, this is almost a pop number.  Now happier on her own she’s even able to wish the ex well, hoping he’s also happy and moving on.

Finally there’s a new love in ‘Mine’, which is a very beautiful ballad.  With possibly a triumph of hope over experience there’s somebody new and all that excitement of love which this time will be the one.

In this album Hollie has made a very good job of showcasing her talent and range, with all the tracks self-written.  She’s got a very good voice, clear and with power when needed, delicacy and a real ability to sing emotions.  Hollie describes herself as alt-folk which is a very popular genre.  Basically it means, as folk always has, story songs where the lyrics are the most important element but without restricting influences from other genres.  The backing also varies well across the tracks, starting with lots of bass strings before progressing into lighter tones. The whole thing sound tight and well produced.  I would say that to get the full benefit of the story this is an album that should be listened to in one sitting rather than dipping in and out.  It’s made the drive to and from work quite a pleasure over the last couple of days.

As a début album it’s one to be applauded and I can say we have another good female singer-songwriter who will hopefully make an impression on the live circuit.  There are already a few live dates for early 2019 up on the website, mostly around the South-East, and the album is certainly good enough to have encouraged me to buy a ticket for one of them.  The album was released on  23rd November and is available to buy on iTunes and Amazon as a download.  I can’t see how to get hold of the physical album, except possibly at a live show.

Tony Birch

‘Like I Used To’ – live session: