Her career effectively launched when famed theatre director Irina Brook used one of her songs as theme for her award-winning show Resonances and the track received extensive airplay on National French Radio. Jemmett went on to compose original music for several other stage productions, most notably Brooks’ Shakespeare’s Sister ou La Vie Materielle , as well as being personally signed up by Judy Collins to her Wildflowers label for the release of her debut album, The Blacksmith’s Girl. This, in turn, was followed by the equally critically acclaimed London Love Songs in 2015.
Her third album is, as you’ll have surmised, a live recording. Taken from a Camden gig last July at one of her favourite London venues, showcasing both material from the first two albums and new songs destined for her third studio collection due later this year, it’s a purely solo performance with just strummed guitar accompaniment, no post-gig production polish but plenty of pre-song chat and local references, which makes radio play a bit difficult.
It opens appropriately enough with ‘I’m Glad To Be Back’ from her debut, which also yields ‘Another Way To Be’, a song written, in the extremes of jet lag, for her daughter while in America to record the album, the lively upbeat love song strum ‘Up On The Heath’, another London-centric song, dedicated to the venue’s manager in the preamble, and with mentions of Hackney and Gospel Oak, and the urgently played dark folk storysong title track itself, which serves as the encore.
Likewise, the title track of the second album also features, a slow waltz bittersweet memory of her time living – and drinking and loving – in Dalston, the detail of its observations echoed in ‘Five Things That I Noticed As I Walked To Camden Square’, a straightforward account of her and her young daughter’s daily walk from their flat to the stall she ran in Camden Market.
As you’ll have discerned, if you’re not already familiar with her work, there’s a strong autobiographical streak, one that doesn’t seek to paper over the cracks. ‘These Days’, written in a funk of loneliness mood not long after moving to a new flat London, is a case in point, a song about the father who walked out when she was a girl where she poignantly sings “If you knew how much I missed you, you’d be back like a shot, telling me just be yourself” as she adds “I gotta stop kidding myself that I don’t need anyone else.” You can sense the hush in the audience. By contrast, from the same album, ‘Adventures In Sobriety’ was written about a friend’s struggle with giving up alcohol, although, as she says in the introduction, it’s about addiction in any form.
As I said, this is very much a what you see if what you get live album, her voice sometimes distorts and feeds back on the microphone, on the one new number, the country-inflected downbeat, reflective ballad ‘A Fighting Chance’, she has to stop and retune while for ‘Stay’, a burned and broken relationship number also taken from London Love Songs, she invites audience participation (above and beyond the occasional coughs) on the chorus (for which they duly oblige), adding to the you had to be there nature.
It definitely has a rough and ready charm that, although clearly directed at her existing fan base, should serve as encouragement to others to seek out a performance, if not necessarily the back catalogue (though they’d be well rewarded if they did), while, to be recorded in Canada with top West Coast producer Joby Baker at the helm, the forthcoming studio set should hopefully further fuel the flames.
Artist’s website: www.sadiejemmett.com