See Beauty

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The gist Debut collection of folk-flavoured songs by Una (an ever-changing ensemble / project led by songwriter, vocalist and guitarist B. A. Diana). The music There’s something immediately likeable about Una (in this incarnation, Diana on guitar and vocals, with Dario Retegno providing skilfully thoughtful violin accompaniments) and also something reassuringly familiar – it’s music which, intentionally or not, hints at the longstanding tradition of (British) folk music, and has a strong flavouring of the troubadour spirit which defines that great anti-pop musical creator of the past two centuries, the singer-songwriter. When done well, as Una do/does here, there’s much pleasure that can be taken from the seeming simplicity of someone standing up there with nothing more than a good, strong voice, some sympathetic guitar playing, and a decent tale or two to share – and likewise, when accomplished well, it more often than not belies the actual complexities that go into making it seem so simple. In this format there simply is nothing left to hide behind, pared-back and laid bare, it’s obvious were things work, and where things fail, and “See beauty” is notable for its successes. It’s difficult not to think of comparisons with those archetypal purveyors of folky-balladry like Joan Baez or Joni Mitchell perhaps, and they’re certainly fair-ish reference points, almost, for the essence of what’s going on here - also at times the presence of the Retegno’s violin recalls some of the late Robert Kirby’s string arrangements which provided the backing across Nick Drake’s first two albums. These are, at best, just pointers though – what matters as much as anything else here is that as a song-writer, Diana is hitting themes and articulating thoughts and feelings that will resonate easily with any of us: of love, life, despair and hope, self-realisation, and the sense that there’s much redeeming positivity and beauty to be had out there. It’s all put forward in compelling fashion from a wonderful and worldy-sounding voice that can do little more to convince us of the lived-in, autobiographical nature of what’s being shared – in fact the only thing that is difficult to imagine about “See beauty” is that it is a debut, such is the maturity and universality of what’s being offered… I guess you’d call it timeless? Listen to "Losing the game" - Honest, stark, straight heart-to-page directness – a good introduction to some of the darker themes on the album "Your love is rain" - The opposite end of the spectrum - short, sweet, abound with good vibes "Making jam with my mom" - Offering a complete stylistic contrast to songs like “Losing the game”, altogether lighter in feel, almost like an old North Eastern sea-shanty of a thing, but with its own sense of tradition lyrically