Turn To Stone
Turn To Stone is available at:
The album Circles is available via:
Turn To Stone– 9.5/10.0
I Don’t Mind– 9.5
Forgive Me– 9.4
Too Close For Comfort– 9.4
Forget You– 9.4
Self Destruct– 9.5
What Am I Worth?– 9.4
Your Time To Grow– 9.5
For The Last Time– 9.3
Don’t Leave– 9.5
Turn To Stone, I Don’t Mind, Self Destruct, Your Time To Grow, Don’t Leave
4th October, 2013
Jonny Firth, Sam Lawrence
DOUBLE BASS, BASS:
KEYS, BACKING VOCALS:
Rosie Doonan, Becka Ward
SAX, BARITONE SAX:
KEYS ON FORGET YOU:
BASS AND STRINGS ARRANGED BY:
Lee Smith and Jamie Lockhart
Lee Smith at Greenmount Studios, Leeds
Tom Woodward at Hippocratic
Acoustic, Soul, Pop, Blues.
Leeds-based stunner Hayley Gaftarnick has been a staple of the Yorkshire music scene for a long time now. Her debut album Circles boasts an incredible amount of confidence, passion and personality- I investigate the album’s opener, Turn To Stone. With its catchy composition, stunningly powerful vocal and earnest longing, it is the perfect representation of our heroine: here is a talent that is going to go very far indeed.
SOME wonderfully colourful and bright musicians have…
come into focus over the months- many of whom hail from Yorkshire. It is not the case that this county is the only one providing fantastic and diverse music, but it does seem to offer something extra special- the sheer sense of confidence and conviction come through immensely strongly. Having focused on (Yorkshire-based) acts such as Issimo and CryBabyCry, the same impression is left: the sounds being made are different to anywhere else in the U.K. We have Blues-Rock and Soul elsewhere in the country, yet it is rare to find a huge amount of examples- Yorkshire seems the natural home of variability and originality. The big cities further south have artists that dare to be a little different; although there is still the tendency to stick to ‘traditional’ and safer genres- Rock, Pop etc. Since 2013, I have heard Electro-Swing, ’60s Pop, U.S. Blues-Rock and Country- the county is restless and adventurous indeed. It is not just the fact that lesser-heard genres are being presented and reinvented: the singers and voices behind the music set themselves apart, too. As much as I love what the likes of London and Manchester are putting out there, you cannot deny that Yorkshire’s stars set themselves apart- maybe it is the accents; the sense of friendliness and fun perhaps? I have been wracking my brain for so many months now, trying to figure out why the likes of Leeds are hotspots for quality and promise- I think I may have hit upon an answer of sorts. It is true that the musicians of the north perhaps have a bit more talent than those elsewhere, but something more obvious and impressive is making itself know: the collaborative spirit of the native musicians. In most cities, bands and solo acts make their albums/songs; they perform and they tour- there is compartmentalization and balkanization. Occasionally, bands collaborate with one another and feature on each other’s work- by and large there is not a lot of cross-pollination and brotherly spirit. In Yorkshire, there seems to be a natural desire to help out your fellow musician: guitarists, drummers, singers etc. will often play on an artist’s album; in turn the favour is repaid- not only does it make the music itself stronger, but it means that more is produced and with less stress and anxiety. My featured artist is someone I have been familiar with for a little while now; her music is that which appeals to the sapiosexual: it is thought-provoking and deep with a lot of emotion and joy. It is not only the central talent of Hayley Gaftarnick that makes her album (Circles) so strong: some familiar faces have conspired to ensure that the eleven tracks are as special as possible. Jonny Firth, Rosie Doonan and Nici Todd are names I have recently reviewed- I assessed CryBabyCry’s track Go Go– whilst Doonan and Firth themselves are particular busy: Firth is part of the duo Knuckle, as well as being a solo artist; Doonan is part of Rose and the Howling North- she is also the face behind Cissie Redgwick. The close-knit communities and reciprocity that is rampant throughout Yorkshire is leading to some rather remarkable music. It would be remiss to ignore Gaftarnick herself: she is the star of the show and has a talent and range that few other singer possess. I shall touch more on this in a second, but shall introduce Gaftarnick to you:
“Hayley Gaftarnick, is an independent singer/song-writer from Leeds. Her husky and powerful voice tells honest and frank stories of a road well-travelled. Whilst being inspired by some of the great names of soul and blues, such as Otis Redding, Donny Hathaway, Etta James and Aretha Franklin, Gaftarnick manages to create a sound that is both familiar and yet truly unique. Having been recognised as one of Leeds’ favourite solo performers, the Leeds-based singer-songwriter has established a fan-base far beyond her home city. Hayley has released her eagerly awaited debut single ‘Turn To Stone’ which is an unbelievingly catchy, upbeat record about unrequited love, from her forthcoming album ‘Circles’. Hayley attended BBC Introducings’ Masterclass this year and her album ‘Circles’ is regularly played on Alan Raws’ BBC Introducing West Yorkshire show. Hayley also has the opportunity to record and perform with some of Yorkshire’s finest musicians, Rosie Doonan (Rose and The Howling North/Cuckoo Records/Cry Baby Cry), JonnyTheFirth(Cry Baby Cry/Cuckoo Records), Adam Richards(Spirit of John/Xray Cat Trio/Cuckoo Records, Sam Lawrence(Wilful Missing/Gary Stewart/Rosie Doonan), Nici Todd(Cry Baby Cry/Cuckoo Records), Samuel Thornton(Louis, Louis, Louis) Richard Collie(Hotfoot Powder/Louis,Louis,Louis), Simon Beddoe(Submotion Orchestra/Haggis Horns), Lee Smith(Middleman/Greenmount Studio’s), Jamie Lockhart (Mi, Mye./Greenmount Studios). Gaftarnick has recently supported big acts such as Jack Savoretti Band at the charity fundraiser ‘musicVcancer’ in Hartlepool where the band described her as having “four voices”. Gaftarnick also supported the incredible Syd Arthur in Leeds on their recent tour, who was described by Raven Bush as “amazing!”
You can clearly hear influences of those great soul names coming through in Circle‘s work: Gaftarnick has a clear affection for the likes of Redding and Franklin- that same power and raw emotion comes through in her voice. A lot of modern artists- who are inspired by Soul greats- tend to steer too closely to their heroes: often you get the sense that they are merely trying to mimic particular singers, rather than use them as a jumping-off point. Gaftarnick employs the greats as a reference point: her tones and style as unique as anything, and are amongst the most vibrant and honest around. With a growing online following and impassioned ears diverting themselves Gaftarnick’s way, it is clear that the ensuing months will see a lot of attention and paen arrive- the gigs are lining up and many reviewers and commentators are keen to make sure they lend praise and tribute to her music.
When trying to compare Turn To Stone and Circles to any of Gaftarnick’s previous work, it is a bit of a hard task: these are the first recorded movements from the Leeds-based talent. That being said, our heroine has been performing and playing for many years now: her reputation has grown steadily and she has established herself as one of the most respected and hard-working musicians in Yorkshire. Gaftarnick has been busy promoting other musicians, and has built a reputation as a considerate and benevolent talent.
If you are looking for like-minded and similar acts- on the scene at present- there are few examples that come to mind. Gaftarnick is influences by the likes of Eli Paperboy Reed, Donny Hathaway, Otis Redding, Al Green, Bob Marley, Etta James and Aretha Franklin: you can detect a bit of these artists in our heroine’s voice and music- she has that same sense of passion and potency. There is such a huge degree of movement and mobility in Gaftarnick’s music, that so many different colours and emotions come through. During her most emphatic and heartbroken moments one hears Amy Winehouse and Adele: Gaftarnick has that same deep-voiced soulfulness; a comparable urgency and tenderness. When songs turn towards Blues-Rock avenues, semblances of Rose and the Howling North can be detected (a band led by her friend Rosie Doonan). Gaftarnick has so much style and soul in each of her words that means you cannot ignore what is being sung: she can be ranked alongside the most impressive and striking Soul singers of today. Due to the uniqueness of her voice, few current names spring to mind: our heroine has more in common with the legends of old- those hugely inspirational idols of the ’60s and ’70s come to the fore.
Turn To Stone makes sure that it gets inside of your head at the earliest opportunity. An acoustic guitar-led intro. is both catchy and propulsive. Backed by pitter-patter percussive, no time is wasted in eliciting energy and fascination. Our heroine approaches the mic. and is in the mood for passion: “I need your love/I need your love.” Desiring of her beau’s warmth and touch, there is a palpable sense of longing and desire (evident in Gaftarnick’s voice): it is restrained and composed but possessed of energy, smokiness and sensuality. It seems that past events have enforced her messages; previous transgressions have transpired that have led our heroine to here: she does not want to be left in the cold and ignored this time; she knows what she wants and wants to get it. As much as passion and compunction rules her thoughts, there is aching in her heart. When singing “can’t breathe/You’re everywhere I turn“, Gaftarnick’s voice rises and catches fire: the first taste of that powerful soulfulness comes through and summons up a huge amount of emotion. With the composition remaining tender and supportive, it is our heroine’s voice that is left to strike and impress: imploring her lover not to leave her alone, every word makes its mark with conviction. With argumentative and impassioned backing vocals, the chorus delivers the first big shiver- it is the summation of the sense of fear and anxiety that our heroine feels. After the honesty and vulnerability of the opening verse, the tables are turned somewhat: Gaftarnick (tells her sweetheart) that he needs her love and warmth- it is not just her that will lose out if love is denied. Whether the relationship has ended or else in dangerous stages I am unsure, yet it seems that it needs to remain intact: our heroine lets it be known how much her touch and presence will be missed when her man is alone (at night). Few twisted or overly forceful notes encroach on the mood: the guitar and percussion elements have punch and addictive energy yet do not crowd out Gaftarnick and her words. By the 2:00 marker, the mood changes and develops: stuttering guitar and percussion introduce a sense of renewed fear and unease. Gaftarnick has walked away so many times before and is not sure what to do- it appears that this is a complicated relationship that has no easy answers or outcomes. As the foreground becomes enraptured in deep questions and doubts, the background offer some slight relief. A dizzying and elliptical guitar coda mixes with the composition- the guitar is fuzzy at times too- which give some lightness and catchiness to proceedings. With a mere matter of seconds remaining, Gaftarnick makes a final pitch to her lover: not wanting to be left alone, it appears that the two need one another. Whether events resolved themselves or not, you sort of hope they did: the heartache and pining that comes through in Turn To Stone is almost ineffable. The incredibly assured and considerate production makes sure the song is as urgent and evocative as possible. Gaftarnick’s voice summons up so much weight and force, that it is impossible not to caught up with the song’s twists. Going from a smooth and deep Soul line to a enfevered climb, vocals run a gauntlet of emotions and moods- it brings words and events to life with stunning clarity. The composition and melody are both catchy and tender: that mix of considerations is a rarity in most music today. With incredible performances all round; tied to lyrics that project a wealth of longing and desire, make Turn To Stone a sure-fire gem- and a perfect opening number for Circles.
The rest of the album is chocked with a riot of differing sounds and subjects. The title track has soulful openings and touches of Aretha Franklin and Amy Winehouse. A smooth and seductive number, Gaftarnick aims at her sweetheart: needing him in her life, she longs for him as “I know it feels so right.” The vocal twists, contorts and rises: backed by a gorgeous and romantic composition, our heroine lets her voice rise and campaign. Picking up from Turn To Stone, she needs stability and answers: the two have been around in circles so many times that something needs to change very soon. I Don’t Mind’s fast-paced and addictive intro. kicks proceedings up a gear. Gaftarnick’s voice is more inflamed and energised: she is waiting for the sunshine to shine down on her life. Looking at the nature of honesty and affection; tales are more optimistic and ebullient: Gaftarnick’s voice elongates and swoons- backed by a terrific brass-heavy composition, it is a woozy and magnificent swing. Hard-edged Rock drums and percussions mix with Soul, Swing and Pop- to create a memorable and dizzying cut. Having been stressed and burnt-out by life, Forgive Me sees our heroine perplexed: she asks for forgiveness but is not being afforded it. There is almost a Reggae tone to the song: vocals are more relaxed and chilled throughout- yet still imbued with huge power. Boasting an incredibly catchy and indelible chorus, the words stick in your mind- you find yourself singing the song after it has passed. Strangely, Finlay Quaye came to mind upon hearing the first few seconds of Too Close For Comfort: that same sunshine that came through in Vanguard can be heard here. These considerations are dissipated as Gaftarnick lets her voice work away: with vocal tics and incredible phrasing, the song’s themes- getting too close and needing to get away from things- are vividly brought to life. There is a Pop sensibility that comes through in the song, yet it far surpasses anything in the mainstream: the delightful compositional kick and wink splendidly supports our heroine’s full-bodied vocal. Stripping things back, Forget You is the album’s mid-way point. Not knowing “what to do“, Gaftarnick is surveying the rubble of a relationship. Although things have taken a turn for the worse, there is still hope: telling her beau to hold onto her, he is still very much on her mind- and causing her restlessness. Huge amounts of romance and tenderness come through in the track: backed by delicate piano notes and subtle percussion, the song melts into your soul. Self Destruct seems almost a polar opposite: from the steamy rush of the intro., Gaftarnick is turning her thoughts inwards. Falling over her shoulder and tripping up, her voice stutters, runs and rushes: matching the song’s drive and sense of self-flagellation, it is an intoxicating performance. Presenting one of the fullest and richest compositions, the track never loses pace and energy- it has a sing along quality that could see it as a live favourite (in weeks from now). What Am I Worth? is probably the most emotional cut from the album. Gaftarnick’s is fearful and needs to be alone: her voice is deep and resonant as it tells of sorrow and personal doubts. Questioning her own worth and strength, it is an open and deep song about the fragilities of life. Backed by beautiful guitar, it is one of the sparsest compositions- giving the vocal and words the opportunity to captivate and overwhelm. Offsetting the introvertedness of What Am I Worth?; ukulele strings give Your Time To Grow a chirpiness and sense of optimism. A redemptive tale, it implores the subject not to beat themselves up- everything will be okay in the end and work out for the best. Mixing Soul, Reggae and Pop, it is another full and fascinating composition- our heroine’s voice is instilled with compassion and emotional support throughout. As well as charming with its catchiness and sing-ability, it is one of the strongest songs on the album. For The Last Time sees our heroine holding onto memories: recalling difficult times and moments of regret, love has made a fool of her for the last time. Gaftarnick’s voice is at its most stirring here- words concerning lies and mismatched love sound utterly compelling. The composition is bare but impressive; a scratchy and persistent acoustic guitar drives the song forward and punctuates the angst-ridden and emotional outpourings. Bringing Circles to a close is Don’t Leave. With early guitars- that put me in mind of The Beatles’ This Boy- reminiscent of ’60s Pop and Soul (fusing with modern-day Acoustic), it is a stunning swan song. Backing vocals once more add colour and vibrancy to proceedings as Gaftarnick begs not to be left “like this“. As well as the likes of Franklin and Redding (especially) coming through in the vocal- with its hot-blooded performance- there are mixes of early-career The Beatles and Etta James: it is an incredible mix of sounds and sensations that creates a modern-day Soul classic. The juxtaposition of impassioned and powerful vocals; tied with a calming and swaying backing, make the song a fitting finale- to a wonderful and compulsive L.P.
There are going to be few people out there that will be indifferent to Gaftarnick’s music: such is the overwhelming sense of passion, force and heartache, that it resonates and speaks to everyone. It is that incredible voice that does the most talking: deep and silky tones give such depth and conviction when speaking of unrequited love and heartache; huge belting notes augment tales of pain and self-reflection- Gaftarnick adapts her voice to score any situation. There are very few comparable voices in music at the moment- at least anyone who has that same sound and sense of range. Fellow Yorkshire musicians Jen Armstrong and Abi Uttley have distinguished themselves as incredibly stunning and inspirational singers: like our Gaftarnick, they have so many different emotions and shades in their voice, that they can pretty much make anything sound compelling and immediate. The aforementioned wonders have their own particular styles: Armstrong’s witty and slice-of-life songs make you smile; Uttley (as part of Issimo) mixes Soul and two-handed tales of life and love- marking themselves out as two of the most important voices around. Gaftarnick has something a little bit extra: those darker and deeper tones carry so much weight; the song books have pain, examination and impassioned longing at their beating heart- Circles is a full-bodied testament of a young woman with a lot on her mind. There are a fair few phenomenal and ambitious female singers in the U.K. at present- whatever your taste or preference, there is something for you. It is no over-exaggeration to say that Gaftarnick is amongst the greatest voices in the U.K. Few of her contemporaries have such a stunning instrument at their disposal: with that incredible and indefatigable range, she has so much room for creativity. Vocalists with narrow ranges and limited potential do not have much chance for manoeuverability: they can make big impressions yet are somewhat scuppered when they want to stretch their pipes. Gaftarnick has limitless potential at her feet: that mesmeric voice is just as comfortable when singing genuine ’60s Soul than it is scoring catchy Acoustic-Pop. In additional to her vocal potential, the songwriting throughout Circles is brilliant. Most of Gaftarnick’s similarly-aged peers tend to be rather immature and short-sighted (when it comes to topics)- words can appear somewhat petulant and clichéd. Our heroine has maturity that belies her age: at times you get the feeling you are listening to someone far older (making their feelings known). This is a big plus for Gaftarnick: she has maturity for sure, yet is fresh and urgent at the same time. In addition to the scintillating vocals and nuanced songs, it is the musicianship and diversity that makes Gaftarnick such a name to watch. No two songs sound alike, and with each new number, the listener is treated to a different world: one moment you get a white-hot Blues stomp; the next some Country-tinged yearning- maybe a razor-sharp Soul anthem the next. It is a hard trick- to present a singular and unique voice- whilst expanding and broadening your horizons: if you create a work that is both distinct yet familiar, then you are onto something very special indeed. Gaftarnick has pulled off that rarest of tricks: both Turn To Stone and Circles have her undeniable personality stamped all over them, yet put you in mind of something comforting and relatable. With the likes of Nici Todd, Jonny Firth, Rosie Doonan and Sam Lawrence featuring on Circles, it means we could see Gaftarnick returning the favour in the future- perhaps a collaboration with CryBabyCry or JonnytheFirth may be on the cards? Because friends and illustrious colleagues help bring the music to life, you get a sense of safety and assuredness throughout: Gaftarnick sounds confident and inspired when she is backed by some familiar faces. All of this- plus the areas I have raised- points towards a very bright and promising future: there are future gigs in the pipeline, though bigger things will arrive. With a voice and talent as striking as hers, Gaftarnick is likely to be in big demand very soon. I know that London-based joints such as Ronnie Scott’s’ are used to hosting similar-sounding (and inferior) talents: there are multiple venues in the capital where Gaftarnick could find herself playing. I am pretty confident that our heroine will be travelling quite a bit next year- it seems highly plausible that she will be playing some big gigs and important dates before too long. Too much of today’s music comes across as limpid and resigned: it is always a treat to discover something with a passionate and wholesome heart; that which has a fascinating and compelling soul- when you do find these qualities, you should make sure others get to hear them. Given the fact that Gaftarnick herself has worked hard to promote others; she is deserving of a reciprocal gesture (not because it is the right thing to do, but because her music should not be confined to Yorkshire-based audiences). Gaftarnick has one of the most distinct and chatoyant voices you are likely to hear and a talent that demands focus. Sit down and investigate what this Yorkshire idol has to say…
YOU won’t regret it.
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