I've just seen Joan Armatrading 'Live', this very evening, as part of Salisbury's Art Festival. She diplomatically pointed out to us the songs that were on this new album "Starlight" before she and her excellent band played them. As an on/off fan of hers for decades, with many of her albums still on old LPs, how could I resist a copy of this light, fresh and enjoyable album, that she was signing?
I still enjoy the old material best; I told Joan that her playing "The Weakness In Me" this evening still sent tingles down me and she admitted that it still was a favourite of hers.
But, moving back from the tangent I've just taken, Joan sensibly and subtly moves her musical goalposts, as seen by the excellent Into the Blues album, the last CD I bought before this one. As I'm sure you know by now, Starlight is more jazz biased, reminding us that here is a lady who can still balladeer, rock, sing as soulfully as a dancing snowflake, yet that voice of hers can reverberate right through to the core. She does this all with cheer, humility and passion, yet is still committed enough to play the smaller venues (the concert was more than sold out...)
What we often forget is that Joan is also an extremely gifted and formidable guitarist - she had at least five different guitars that she played for the different songs and styles. There is less guitar work on Starlight, though 'Tell Me' does feature some, along with smart, flitting percussion, acoustic bass and tinkling jazz piano.
I know that Starlight will be an album that I will be playing many times and it will sound better each time. It doesn't aim to be a commercial album, so there are no catchy choruses or instrumental hooks to earworm their way into one's mind. They're like Joan herself; accessible, mellow, sophisticated and really rather delightful.