And i totes teared up...
'Four years after the release of Sarah Humphreys’ debut album Teapots, Trees, and Lovebirds, the Central Coast songstress has returned with a captivating six-song, home-recorded EP of covers dedicated to all the men who have had an impact on her life, including her father, son, and boyfriends past and present.
It is fitting that the cover of Him is a simple sketch of a bird on a branch with a background of cardboard brown, as like her obvious influences Nick Drake and Joni Mitchell, Humphreys strips songs down to their most simplistic forms, yet retains the feel and passion for the subject matter with her beautifully-floating vocals and tasteful ukulele touches.
Despite the undisputed quality of the songs she covers – including tunes by big-hitters Elton John, John Lennon, and Bruce Springsteen – it is Humphreys’ voice that is the star of the show here. The qualities of her delivery could probably allow her to sing the contents of the phonebook and still be engaging.
First up is ‘Daniel,’ the Elton/Bernie Taupin-penned hit. Fearlessly tackling songs many would consider to be classics, Humphreys makes everything she sings her own. Singing about a blinded war veteran returning home can’t be easy, but she does it effortlessly, with only a subtle ukulele floating in the background of her soft yet intense vocals.
Next up is ‘You Are My Sunshine,’ the old Jimmie Davis tune; covered by every folkie young and old since it emerged in the 1930s, and which Humphreys dedicates to her father. There are hundreds of versions of this song out there (check out Brian Wilson’s masterful take on the 2004, near-mythical Smile LP) and Humphreys does a fine job with it, putting her stamp on the song with a vocal full of relaxed expression and sounding like she really means it.
‘Beautiful Boy’ follows, originally written by John Lennon, and reportedly one of Paul McCartney’s top-ten favourite songs of all time. Dedicating the song to her son, Humphreys again takes someone else’s composition to another level. While some artists’ choice of covers can leave a listener scratching their head, Humphreys clearly knows the sort of songs that will match her voice and gentle ukulele combination.
Track four is the Hall & Oates staple ‘You Make My Dreams,’ allowing Humphreys to set the folk aside and indulge in some straight-up pop. With snappy hand-claps, soaring harmonies, and tinkling percussion, her version would sound great played live with guitar and drums.
Penultimate track ‘Jesus Etc.’ sounds sparse and downbeat compared to the Wilco original, and could be improved with a little percussion, yet Humphreys does it justice with another beautifully-delivered vocal, while closer ‘Two Hearts,’ a Bruce Springsteen song, sounds so tailor-made for her that it could probably be mistaken for an original composition in circles less-schooled in the ways of ‘The Boss’.
Cover records are often underwhelming and can so easily fall short of their original intentions, but with Him, Sarah Humphreys has delivered a thoughtful and appealing set of interpretations of modern classics. The rich qualities of her singing put her in the same league of many of her more well-known contemporaries, and evoke comparisons to the likes of Sally Seltmann and Holly Throsby. Indeed, if the Seeker Lover Keeper girls ever decided to become a quartet, they should look no further. Until then, we can enjoy Him, and wait to see what Humphreys does next.'
PAUL MCBRIDE- AAA BACKSTAGE
Him is out now through ABC Music/Universal.
If you'd like to buy any of my music, it's available on iTunes, ABC stores, JBhifi or through my website.