Blood, by Lianne La Havas
Suggested by Ross Silcock
Lianne La Havas is a stage name. The artist’s given name is Lianne Charlotte Barnes.
As far as changes go, it’s rather low-key. We’re not talking Englebert Humberdinck levels here. Apparently, the La Havas moniker is a play on her Greek father’s name, Henry Vlahavas, which is rather cute and wholesome.
Once, when appearing in Hamlet at the Liverpool Unity Theatre, I was contacted by Equity, the Actor’s Union. “This is it!” I thought, positive they’d seen my sterling performance and were inviting me to join their number. In reality, they’[d seen the poster, which had my name on it (amongst others), and were informing me that the Equity actor Craig Stevenson had called them to complain. If I ever had aspirations of becoming an Equity Member, they told me, I’d have to change my stage name.
I pondered long and hard, weighing a host of possibilities, swilling each around my tongue, tasting the name with which likely make my millions. In the end, I came up with the following:
On reflection, that’s appalling, as it would lead to a life of constant questions whenever I filled in a form. I’m already “Stevenson-WithAVee” whenever anyone asks for my surname as it is, I don’t need any extra baggage.
Nowadays, if pressed, I’d go with my name from my time in Badger, Craig Ewaigy Stevenson (it’s African!), or my stage name from my time in Scooby Doo and the Mystery Machine: Tobias Casual. If you think that’s bad, one member chose the name McMoomin Bassfimp, so my straw is not the shortest.
Musically, Lianne La Havas brings a luscious, layered soulful indie folk sound, orchestrated with a delicate and gentle beauty and bolstered with a wonderful singing voice. Blood, her second of three albums to date, is mesmeric from start to finish. Ostensibly a guitarist, her songs feel wider and more involved than one might expect from a single instrumentalist, but it’s clear that while each track’s central premise might spring from an acoustic core, it’s Lianne’s songwriting that pushes this album over the edge.
There’s a lot to explore in Blood, with the first three songs in particular offering the most exotic fruits. Unstoppable is a bass-and-percussive slow yet upbeat stomper, Green & Gold a smoky, echoing jazz-tinged delight, and my standout What You Don’t Do is an infectious and swinging pop standard with a fine retro feel. These three form the album’s singles releases, and it’s a mystery to me why none of them made an impression in the UK. At least she charted in Belgium.
Aside from the opening three, Lianne La Havas offers up intriguing track after intriguing track, from the funk-bass of Tokyo to the softly-spoken Wonderful, from shuffle-drums and soaring vocal of Grow to the bare and haunting Ghost. Every song is taut and muscular, carrying its own weight without breaking a sweat. There’s no fat on this album, not one ounce. And that voice!
Blood gets a fine 8/10 from me. Lianne La Havas can call herself whatever she pleases, as I’ll be eagerly following her development regardless.