Anna Calvi: Anna Calvi Review
Listening to British songwriter Anna Calvi’s self titled debut record I am struck by its aesthetic similarity to another artist who has a new album out at roughly the same time: New Jersey singer Nicole Atkins. Like Atkins Calvi draws inspiration from old world jazz and bluesy classic rock, and both even name David Lynch’s surrealism as a major influence. When it comes to a direct comparison however, Calvi seems destined to run away with the prize. Whereas Atkins still seems to be stretching and polishing her sound, Calvi seems to have emerged into the music world fully matured. Her debut album is a fairly stunning achievement that defies the fact that she is still relatively new to the game.
For starters, Calvi begins her record with “Rider To The Sea,” a ghostly, flamenco tinged guitar instrumental that demonstrates that this singer/songwriter has the talent of an old hand when it comes to playing the axe. And lest she be defined solely by her simple mastering of the guitar, in the following nine tracks Calvi also demonstrates that her abilities also extend to both singing and songwriting. Following the lead of crooners like Nina Simone, Calvi sings in a velvety purr that brings to life the imagery of her tenebrous, simmering lyricism. Occasionally she dips low into what I like to call her “Nick Cave voice,” where she combines Cave’s dramatic gravitas with her own more operatic vocal style that’s reminiscent of the old Italian greats. This is most evident in tunes like “Desire,” where she passionately incants the image of the devil over a strong, classic rock oriented backing, or “I’ll Be Your Man,” which could likely be passed off as a unreleased Cave cover. And if anything, it’s that passion that seems to define Calvi’s sound across the board. Whether she’s evoking sweet romanticism (“First We Kiss”) or smoldering desire (“Love Won’t be Leaving”) Calvi’s intimate intensity brings each song to bittersweet but vibrant life.
And since Flamenco is perhaps, one of the musical genre most commonly associated with passion, it’s no surprise that the style features so prominently throughout Calvi’s work. With finger picking that evokes a Spanish classical guitar background, Calvi likely could have become a tablao regular. Lucky for us though, she hasn’t limited herself to one specific genre. Flamenco, jazz, classic rock, opera – Calvi draws influence from each, but her resulting combination is uniquely her own. She may not be the only one who draws from said influences, but to my knowledge she certainly seems to be the best.
— Jon Behm
Ann Calvi will be available in the U.S. on March 1st on Domino Records
Anna Calvi: Site