Lining up as Amanda Alvarez (cello), Jess Kennedy (piano, flute) and Amy Birks (vocals), Beatrix Players are an London-based Anglo-Spanish trio who, taking their name from from the Latin “viatrix” (meaning traveller, though Beatrix itself means she who makes happy), combine folk, jazz, classical and progressive. With influences that range from Michael Nyman to, rather clearly, Tori Amos though Louis Jordan wouldn’t be far from the mark on some occasions either, their debut album, Magnified, addresses familiar themes such as change, relationship, childhood and moments of crisis, opening with ‘Rushlight’, wherein the female narrator refuses to be pushed around and taken for granted (“I will not be passed around like a new born child. And I cannot be given back at the end of the night”).
Dipping in, ‘Lady Of The Lake’ deals with the end of a relationship (“Your heart replaced with hate”), the folksier flavoured ‘Roses’ (which features Robyn Hemmings on double bass) would seem to concern three women during the Wars of the Roses and, referencing the Brontes, ‘Never Again’ is about finding strength after some sort of scandal.
Lyrically very much directed at a female audience, it’s potent stuff about empowerment and, as on ‘Not For The First Time’, not buckling under the pressure (“Not for the first time/Have I felt alone in this goddamn city/And not for the first time/Have I seen hearts as hard as an India-rubber ball”). Indeed, ‘Obey Me ‘(one of three numbers to feature Anna Jenkins on violin) while Birks may sing “Just say yes and I am yours”, she then qualifies this with “But you should know/That I will go crazy/If you do not obey me/Obey me baby.”
On, the other hand, you get something like the jazzier and more urgent piano riffs of ‘Unpolished Pearl’ where self-doubt creeps in as “Stuck in some kind of sleep paralysis…Only thing I can do is wait/Wait for him/Him in the shadows/To free/To free me.”
It swings between the euphoria of love on the waltzing ‘High Heel Shoes’ (“I feel like I could walk all night in high heel shoes/Just to be with you”) to the anguish of ‘What Do You Say’ which seems to be about a child witnessing the collapse of their parents’ marriage.
They may find it hard to escape the inevitable comparisons and, next time around, they might want to add some extra colours (harp, perhaps) to the sonic texture, but as long they keep coming up with numbers like ‘Mole Hill’ (which features Jenkins on both violin and viola), they’re assured of a dedicated following.
Artists’ website: www.beatrixplayers.co.uk
‘Lady Of The Lake’ – official video: