Megan Henwood’s debut album, Making Waves, had a deceptively Pre-Raphaelite cover that concealed some muscular songs and it was well received. That was in 2011 and when her profile remained relatively low it seemed that she was yet another talent that burned too fast and too bright. Not so.
It’s taken her a while to complete her second album but, my, it’s good. Megan has co-produced Head, Heart, Hand with Tom Excell, whose background in electronic music adds a few surprising touches to what is essentially an acoustic album. Here and there is what might be considered too much echo or the manipulated sound of an instrument to unsettle the listener just a little.
And then we turn to the songs and they, too, can be unsettling. ‘Our Little Secret’ should send a shudder down the spine of any man who looks at a girl who is too young for him. We suppose that he’s a teacher and, although I can honestly say that I never went there, I can understand how it might happen. ‘No Good No Fun’ is a bitter story of rejection and ‘Lead Balloon’ could be its mirror image. Many songs seem to speak of alienation and death hovers around; explicitly in ‘Grateful Ghost’, more subliminally throughout the record.
Megan and Tom have assembled a small band: bass, drums, keyboards and strings with Jackie Oates as special guest on viola and vocals. There is one unaccompanied traditional song, ‘Rose Red’, featuring Megan, Jackie and Tom, which sounds as though it was recorded in the open air – there are distant voices suggesting a park – for a little more mystery. It’s followed by ‘Garden’, one of the albums biggest numbers, which concerns a character called Daisy who could be anything from a tortoise to an Earth-mother spirit depending which part of the lyric you choose to rely on.
That’s the beauty of Head, Heart, Hand – musically and lyrically varied and imaginative and full of mysteries.
Artist’s website: www.meganhenwood.com
‘Chemicals’ – the official video: