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Jo Gabriel – Fools & Orphans Review

Jo Gabriel returns to the stage with her atmospheric haunting style that is so very unique with her third release “Fools and Orphans” and this time we have added vocals.

“Bulldozer” opens with family swirling pianos and dark strings being gently severed to death. Jo’s high pitched, almost child like innocent vocals soar “Why Should I Love You?”. The vocals remind me of very early Kate Bush in terms of tone and texture. While its underbelly is disturbing it has a soothing voice over the top and the contrast is a compelling one.

“Fable Honey” follows the same ebb and flow with some really beautiful piano, string and brass work. There’s something quite desperate about this song with its fast piano over slow string background that gives it that aching urgency – beautiful.

“Vacant Little Stare” is a much slower affair, emphasising the soft vocals and basic song structure and by doing so making it bare and downbeat. “Firefly” is a much grander song with beautiful piano work and the fact that you can’t always make out what’s being said adds to the darker side of the piece. The choruses are fantastic.

“I Shudder for the Clouds Have Tempted Madness” has some wonderful piano work and excellent use of duel vocals and reverb. Jo’s high pitched vocals are almost like Elizabeth Frasier at times. “Cellophane” again follows
the same approach but has a constant building of chords in the second half which keeps its momentum building up and up.

“The Habits of Shadows” has such an infectious riff for its chorus while Jo does a murmuring chant. This song in particular is very well accomplished and a personal favourite.

“How the Devil Falls in Love” has a lovely introduction almost like a sunny 1950’s opening to a movie. The mood shifts when the piano and vocals join in however. “Of Love and Ether” has birdsong going on in the background while a double bass gives the base for a plucky little number which plods round in circles spiralling up and out slowly into a beautiful climax.

We then enter the final trio. “God Grant She Lye Still” is an epic song clocking at 7.39. It slowly unfolds into a sliding flurry of piano, vocal and string snowstorms. The arpeggios are nicely done here. “Poison in the Wall” is an excellent rounding off song which captures the intense side of the album. Hard piano chords being hit with soaring background vocals. There is one final track on the album that’s hidden and its stands out because there is a male backing vocalist and its just piano and voice. A nice subtle end to an excellent album.

“Fools and Orphans” has an atmosphere all of its own. Mystical, haunting, revolving and compelling – all the songs are in the same vein and sound similar but you never notice it as the songs are always on the move. Jo Gabriel has crafted a beautiful work here and I recommend all piano lovers or alternative music peeps to take a sneak peek.

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