Gwyneth Herbert is the latest female singer-songwriter peddling gentle easy-listening music, but from two very different angles. Bittersweet and Blue
is a collection of thirteen songs, ten of which are covers, in either a jazzy folk style a la
Eva Cassidy and Norah Jones; the other three are bombastic big-band swing.
The opener is a fairly straight cover of Peggy Lee's "Fever" where Herbert's voice is natural, warm and exceptionally sweet but distracted by the latter part of the signature bass riff being cut, which can't help jarring the arrangement a little. Other notable covers are well known but well chosen to suit Herbert's voice--Portishead's "Glory Box" sounding like an exceptionally polished version of the original and Neil Young's "Only Love Can Break Your Heart" sounding beautiful amidst strings and her intimate voice. Herbert's own songs, co-written with Will Rutter, lean more towards the softer folk side. The title track is a pleasant acoustic ballad, "A Little Less" is more an upbeat swing number that, to its credit, sounds timeless and "Fallen" is MOR at its finest complete with soft Rhodes accompaniment.
There is very little in Bittersweet and Blue to make Gwyneth Herbert stand out as the next big thing but her voice, whilst not that different, is genuinely very strong and very easy on the ear. --Georgina Collins