Album Title: Half Cut
Release Date: 9 February 2024
Like Dylan on amphetamines.”
The Financial Times ★★★★
“Beat poet adventurer who strays beyond the realm of singer songwriter.”
“Yearningly pretty and bittersweet.”
The Independent ★★★★★
“Superior lyrics & compositional acumen flourish in the hands of a truly powerful band.”
R&R Magazine ★★★★★
More than her previous four albums, Half Cut sees singer songwriter Sarah Gillespie delving into her American roots where, growing up, she spent long summers in Minnesota, soaking up jazz, blues, beat poetry and the wordsmithery of fellow Minnesotan, Bob Dylan. Partly composed during lockdown – and perhaps because of this – the album conveys an overarching sense of emotional and physical claustrophobia, punctuated by the euphoria of escape as the album veers from delicate melancholic laments to raucous piss-taking pastiche and Tom Waits-esque blues. Musically the album takes in jazz, folk, country, Americana and more. It’s all of these things and yet none; turbocharged with lop sided, alt-county melodies, spring-loaded poetry and folk tales populated with characters fighting, loving, loosing each other and themselves.
Described as a “beat poet for the 21st Century” by The Independent and “like Dylan on amphetamines” by The Financial Times, Gillespie not only delivers powerful melodies that stay with you but also lyrics of intense wit, observation and sensitivity. It has been observed that an album of hers leaves an afterglow of a great short story collection as much as it does an album of songs. The album was recorded in Berlin’s legendary Hansa Studio (David Bowie) and she is accompanied by her long-term, power-house band of, Kit Downes (piano + organ), James Maddren (drums) Tom Cawley(harpsicord + piano), Conor Chaplin (bass) and Chris Montague (mandolin + guitar) who also co-wrote four songs on the album with Gillespie.
One of those co-writes is ‘Molly of the Salt Sea’ (the first single), a tale of passion curdling into violent possession drawing on Scottish murder ballads and Othello. The title track and second single (another Montague/Gillespie co-write)‘Half Cut’ is a lament on our inability to grasp the world capsizing around us: “history is a pendulum smashing our faces in, spiking our drinks.” She refers to refugees as “seekers of starlight” and points to the ideological polarisation of mutual incomprehension, “slamming the phone down on our brother, silence bouncing from 1 satellite to another.” “Nations are imploding” in ‘18th Holy Curse’, a song based on a lifetime of conversations with her father about politics and history over countless bottles of wine.
Five albums in and Gillespie has thrown caution to the wind, forging her own distinct path without pandering to convention or current trends. The result is a glorious collection of songs showcasing her ability to seduce and mesmerise with spellbinding narratives and catchy licks.