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Wednesday, 6 February 2013

Gin Wigmore : this gin's a tonic! - Gravel & Wine review

She hollers like a veteran rock and roller, and plays the blues as if she was born in the USA.

Born down in a dead man town.

All of which is a little unsettling, given that 26-year-old Virginia Wigmore is a chart pop songbird from, er, New Zealand...

It’s just that she loves cowboy movies, has a hankering to star in a Tarantino film, and opens her shows with A Fistful Of Dollars.

“I decided I wanted to make a blues record,” she grins. “My management said ‘But Gin, you don’t know nothing about the blues!

“What are you, just some little white girl going to sing the blues? Go and learn about it, for God’s sake.

“So I went on this trip by myself and cruised around the Mississippi, Alabama, Nashville, Memphis...

“I learned about Elvis, went to the Stax Museum, learned about all those artists and wrote with people along the way. And from that I just built my stories and had an adventure.

“The music was laid down live withas few takes as possible. It’s all recorded with a bunch of musicians from Georgia, a quite southern mad bunch of dudes. So, yes, it’s different.”

The road trip built on the influences of her childhood, Gin confesses.

“I guess I’ve always been listening to music and stealing my parents’ record collection.

“I was 13 or so when I picked up the guitar Mum had bought for Dad. I managed to make sense of it and wrote some ditties to deal with my angsty teenager things going on!”

There’s no angst on the album. It’s a sassy, swaggering, self-confident affair which works well both as a rock set and a pop party. It’s gritty but there are singalong hooks galore.

Gin’s vocal is a ‘love it or loathe it’ decision. It sneers and sizzles, even occasionally smoulders, like a 21st century Eartha Kitt.

There’s a bit of Amy Winehouse ion there, a dash of Macy Gray. Above all, it’s feelgood, fiery and fun. You’ll wear a wide grin after just one listen.

Man Like That (the music from the Heineken 007 ad) is like the Puppini Sisters on steroids; Devil In Me sounds like Gwen Steafni’s No Doubt starring in a spaghetti western, complete with that guitar from The Good, The Bad & The Ugly.

If Only is the sort of 60s-styled ballad that sounded nostalgic even back in the sixties, Sweet Hell a sweet country ramble with co-writer Butch Walker, and Black Sheep a semi-biographical stadium chant.

“I wasn’t born a beauty queen but I’m okay with that,” she sings. “Maybe radio won’t mind if I sing a little flat.

“I wear my boots to bed, hang a cross up on the wall to save me from a shallow grave that wants to take us all.”

Yet when she turns the volume dial down for the stripped back Singin’ My Soul, there’s a surprising vulnerability about her.

Make mine gin, this one’s a tonic.

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