By James Barker, Staff Writer
Joan Armatrading is a much-overlooked trailblazer in rock, pop, blues, country, folk, and Americana. You name it and she has done it. Her music refuses to be fenced into any one genre, and this is no different on her latest album Consequences.
Immediately on the album, Armatrading’s crisp, clear voice shines through against the percussion on “Natural Rhythm.” “All life must have meaning,” she insists in the second verse — a philosophy for making the most of life that runs through the album, both lyrically and musically.
In fact, Armatrading’s wise lyrical axioms about the way life ought to be live run through Consequences. Urging listeners not to “live with hate” on “Better Life” is the kind of pithy wisdom that would make Dolly proud. And just like Parton, Joan Armatrading makes you believe what may otherwise be sentimental clichés through the sheer joy and conviction of her voice.
Elsewhere on the album, Armatrading goes deeper to evoke the various motions we go through in everyday life. On “Glorious Madness,” she sums up the contradictory tensions of the day to day experience: “most times you want it to go faster.”
The title track explores the importance of considering the ‘consequences’ of the choices we make, and how we live with but are not defined by them. “To Be Loved” encapsulates both the joy of love and the loneliness and danger that can exist outside it, confessing and imploring “don’t wanna go home alone in the dark.” This is an album that makes you feel the zest for life of the lyrics through the full power of Armatrading’s impassioned vocal performances.
Above all, on Consequences Joan Armatrading is fully confident in who she is and what her sound is. The album incorporates stripped back ballads, rootsy folk, amplified rock, and catchy pop. She has no need to “compare [herself] to everybody else,” and this is an album that could not be made by anyone apart from her. Consequences has an almost timeless quality to it, yet it is not dated. The album sounds contemporary, yet it is not chasing any current trend.
Armatrading has only now begun to receive her long overdue recognition from the UK music scene, including from Americana Music Association UK. Consequences reached the top 10 of the all genre album chart in the UK last month, and is available to listen to now on all platforms.