If you’ve ever seen Ellen and the Escapades live, you’ll know they’re full of energy, tight as a pair of spanks and, well, thrilling. Their songs are a whirlwind of pop folk and the voice of singer Ellen Smith is soothing, subtle and pitch perfect, surrounding you like a big comfy blanket on a rainy day.
Their debut album All The Crooked Scenes showcases Ellen’s voice and their songwriting brilliantly. ‘I’ll Keep You Warm’ is a gorgeous pop song, bridging the gap between folk and pop, like a softer Mumford & Sons, with its catchy melody and lovely Fleetwood Mac style harmonies. The title track is deep and moody, passionate, and the partnership between echoy slide guitar and a distorted, manic electric lifts it above many of the others on the album. ‘Stone Bird’, too, steps out of the slickness to deliver a sweet, beautiful and heart-breaking ballad oozing with lovely harmonies and heavenly percussion.
The musicianship on the album is also top-notch. From a simple strummed guitar to the bubbling Hammond, winding bass lines and woody-warm piano, you can hear that these are a talented bunch.
But if we’re allowed a little complaint, at times the record lacks the certain ‘oomph’ that comes across so wonderfully when they’re on stage. It can sound a little too slick, too poppy, too compressed, lacking that ruggedness and edge that is the heart and soul of folk.
Buy the album, learn the songs, then go and watch them live.
Words: Gemma Hampson