Sera : Little GirlFolkal Records - Release: 02.09.2016
I received my review copy of Little Girl under a half complete gazebo in a taxi car park at the top end of Llandudno Junction. It was a drizzling day with the sky an oppressive washed out grey. Not an auspicious moment, but on getting home it took only the first four bars into its first play to be astounded.
Sera is a Caernarfon based bilingual singer songwriter, and as noted before, she has an extensive and captivating back catalogue. Her last EP, Straeon, saw a first musical collaboration with the producer of this album, Eddie Al-Shakarchi, who contributed by playing on Mond am Eiliad and Agor dy Galon. If anything has changed to make this new album something a whole stratospheric level above what, however excellent, she has recorded before, it must be this new working relationship. Al-Shakarchi is also a multi-instrumentalist - and his contribution of often spare but dynamic percussion is particularly important here in breathing life into the music.
There are all sorts of influences evident - Americana, country, folk, here and there a slight hint of the best of Dolores O'Riordan in the vocals - but overall this is just a superb set of maturely written and performed songs.
The album opens with a very impressive trio - Through the Wild is just brilliant in its wrought framing of Sera's impassioned vocal, the title track Little Girl is gentler with a distinct country mood and the acoustic pop of Carry Me (written with Gordon Mills Jr.) must be the best and most uplifting song describing an anthropomorphised attachment to a faithful car (in this case a battered Land Rover) ever.
The standard never drops: Creative Side skiffles along brightly, Storm Cloud is magnificent in both its sustained, simple but evocative lyrical metaphor and scintillating vocal, Waterside is piano based and graceful, with a perfect cello accompaniment. You can go through the whole set with praise (13 songs including the bonus Moments) - but it is still Mond am Eiliad, featured on the earlier Straeon EP, that is something else; Sera and co-writer Siôn Russell Jones deliver a beautiful song with guitar and their two voices, then powerfully add Sion Lewis' subtle cello as it builds.
For a finale there is the well realised hard electric blues rock of Through the Night - and then the coda of the bonus track Moments - Mond am Eiliad sung in English. If there is one problem here it is that there are so many varied but exceptional songs it takes time and repeat listens to orientate yourself.
It would be an easy temptation to allow yourself to judge what you come across locally on a more forgiving, lesser standard - but the music on this CD is genuinely distinctive, striking, flawlessly crafted and emotive - Little Girl is a stunning album on any measure.
[Order Little Girl from Bandcamp]
SERA I Mond Am Eiliad