Those who have seen the British guitarist and songwriter Chantel McGregor in concert will know that she has a gushy personality.
She is extremely amiable — her shows are often scattered with reflections, meanderings and curiosities.
She tends to bubble with enthusiasm. Her shows offer her a rare opportunity, it seems, to enjoy a good talk with her neighbours and friends. She just wants to have a genial gossip.
It’s because she’s a Yorkshire working-girl. Tattle and over-the-garden-fence chatter is part of her make up. Chantel comes from the wool capital of the world — Bradford. It was once an intensely industrial area. The spinners from the wool factories were legendary chatterblabs.
But for such a friendly, home-loving and lovable girl — Chantel lives a long-way away from her Pennine origins while she is on the road. Relentlessly gigging, she regularly puts in 15 hour days. And it’s hard for her to find experiences worth re-telling.
“I write songs about television programs or books that I’ve read — because that’s when I’ve experienced the most pain…” She once told us.
Like many of us, the only real ‘drama’ in her busy life is experienced through the television-box.
So, it’s no surprise, really, that “Lose Control” — the new album by Chantel McGregor (out October 9, 2015) — is largely inspired by TV shows like True Detective or True Blood.
She likes to plunge herself into this “Sinister dark world of depravation, magic [and] voodoo, writing from the perspective of the disturbed flawed characters…” Immersion in this strange place allows the committed musician to experience what it must be like to lose control.
Chantel is a full-time music professional. She spends all her days dealing with the business of music. She is constantly working, “Dealing with emails, dealing with contracts, sending out invoices and chasing things…” So she becomes cut-off from real-life. Almost puritanically abstemious. She freely admits that she has never sampled the delights or dangers of boundless self-gratification and ill discipline.
We have been listing to the new album:
The disc begins with ‘Take the Power ’ which is about losing oneself to a cult or some higher power.
This is an alternative rock track. Perhaps taking influence from one of her favorite bands, Soundgarden.
Threatening bass-heavy notes take us into dark territory. The “Control them… ” lyric is particularly powerful — coming across like a howl. A strong, piercing cry that creeps through the bones.
The eruption of guitar, when it arrives, is agitated, steaming and fiery. Sharp, biting, and pungent.
The next track ‘Your Fever ’ is the musical equivalent of experiencing the noonday sweats in the Pearl River lagoons.
Runnels of gloopy guitar sounds run like rivulets down the sodden back of this song. And all the while, the atmosphere is thick with tension and is stickily moist.
‘Anaesthetize ’ explores the guilt and despair caused by substance abuse.
This song allows Chantel to express herself through her polished vocals (uncontaminated but sensitive and empathetic.) A sullen cello sound winds through the expository guitar-work whose tangle and weave seems to suggest break down. Then freedom is alluded to, as the melody extricates itself from the increasingly converging danger
So here’s country music, hard rock and even pop jangle. Offered up by the award-winning artist who is most closely identified with the blues guitar. But Chantel does not consider herself just a blues artist. “I play Chantel music…” She once told us. “A bit of pop, a bit of rock, a bit of blues […] It’s got everything, all mushed together... ”
And so, on the final track ‘Walk on Land ’ we get her first foray into progressive rock.
She admits to loving Steven Wilson (Porcupine Tree) and she enjoys experimenting with different time signatures and interesting instrumentation / vocal textures.
This track is sluggish and melancholy. The carefully collected acoustic notes seem disturbing. Dark, they create tension — especially when coupled with the shady piano. Then comes the payoff. A drawn-out ribbon of guitar. It wriggles free from the song architecture. It draws breath before finding its own life. Then flies away.
‘Lose Control ’ is a treasure-chest of rewarding, bright and clever songs.
A mix of heavy riffs, scorching blues-inspired indulgences and hard rock celebrations. Oozing sensuality and curiousity…
And, of course, all pleasantly punctuated by the perky talebearing gossipry that is the essence of Chantel.
Words: @neilmach 2015 ©
Lose Control – the new album by Chantel McGregor is released: October 09, 2015