Album Review: Sheridan Smith – A Northern Soul

Sheridan Smith - A Northern Soul Artwork

Sheridan Smith is an amazingly talented actress and singer, originally from Epworth, Lincolnshire but now based primarily in London. She has performed in a wide variety of roles in film, television and stage perhaps the most prominent of which included Janet Keogh (née Smith) in the BBC Two sitcom Two Pints of Lager and a Packet of Crisps, Sandy Beech on the BBC One sitcom Eyes Down, Cleo Martin on the BBC One comedy-drama Love Soup, Becky in the 2012 British thriller Tower Block and for her her starring roles as Audrey in the 2007 West End revival of the musical Little Shop of Horrors, Elle Woods in the 2010 West End stage adaption of Legally Blonde and Fanny Brice in the 2016 West End stage adaption of Funny Girl. She has in fact contributed so much work of substance that in 2015 during the New Year Honours she was appointed an Officer of the Order of the British Empire (or OBE) for services to drama.

Now let’s focus on her music career. She was musically talented from a young age, and was a member of the National Youth Music Theatre from 1995 to 2001. She released her first album ‘Sheridan’ on the 3rd November 2017, and I had the pleasure of reviewing that previously, and you can check that out here. But today I will be reviewing her second album ‘A Northern Soul’ which was released on the 2nd November 2018.

‘A Northern Soul’ opens with fast paced, high intensity percussion backed with a complex instrumental frenzy that only breaks to allow Sheridan’s assertive and impassioned vocals to explode onto the scene. This track is an amazing opener, often you’ll find on an album that the artist with start with something more subdued and build but Smith bucks the trend and gives us something that’s not only unexpected but is a tremendous high energy track to boot. I already knew I liked her voice from the first album, but less than a year later she produces something that’s even more impressive.

‘Handle with Care’ kicks off with a much lighter percussion and melody, a nice even tempo that builds and has a well measured pace that balances speed and melody well. Again, I am just in love with Sheridan’s vocals, her voice is rich and smoky, with a pleasing undertone that holds up well during the more extended vocal sections of this track. She also has a good range, because there are some higher notes in this track that can really test a vocalist and she does it well. Speaking of vocals, I really liked the subtle vocal harmonies in this track, they brought something vital without stealing focus from Sheridan’s show stopping voice.

‘Priceless’ is another percussive lead melody, but it’s very different from the previous two examples, it has a heavier, deeper melody and you can feel a whole new intensity and energy in Sheridan’s voice. Her voice has strength and edge to it, and you just get swept away in it. This track was definitely on the faster side, not too high energy but it had a lot of forward momentum which added to the hammer hit of power you feel when you are listening. I think the ending of this track was the true highlight though, it sort of fades out, almost anticlimactic in a way, but it really works. I think it’s the ‘leaving you wanting more’ effect in work but whatever it is I loved it.

‘Are You Just Sleeping’ is a piano focused melody, soft gentle chords intermixed with a soft thrumming heartbeat, it’s very mellow and subdued compared to some of the other tracks b ut much like ‘Handle with Care’ if really gives Sheridan’s voice a chance to shine, and it really does. I mean I know the album is called ‘A Northern Soul’ but this performance is so soulful and deep and emotional that from that first note you are just captivated by it.

‘Remedy in the Melody’ blends percussion and strings for a nice harmony, as Sheridan sings throughout. I am amazed that each track shows a whole different side to her voice, and is its own unique emotional experience and yet it all works cohesively as a whole as well. I liked the beat of this one, it’s the kind of track that really sticks in your mind. Plus it has some adorable vocal harmonies which as I’ve said before I always enjoy. Smith belts it out at parts during this song, and you feel the strength of her delivery.

‘Rock Bottom’ is slower than the last track, a more tempered melody, just soothing guitars and a light percussive beat that support Sheridan’s gorgeous voice. This track had some of my favourite vocal contributions of the whole album, it’s the highs and lows, and that almost indescribable quality of good music that all come together to create a track like this.

‘Why Can’t I Fall in Love’ opens with a light percussive fill before just exploding, and man you get the full weight of Sheridan’s voice in this track, she holds nothing back as she just absolutely nails it with this number. I’ve noticed that there’s a nice pattern to the tracks, giving equal focus to the instrumentals and vocals, it creates an overall well structured album.

‘Ain’t That Funny’ opens with applause before flowing into a nice, easy going melody, soft and inviting, it just takes you along with it. I really liked Sheridan’s vocals on this, she has a nice well rounded voice, this one just shows off a warmer, heavier quality to it. I think the instrumental backing for this track is what makes it though, it’s just perfect for the tone and energy of the lyrics and vocals, and it manages to do all that while being relatively subtle and understated.

‘Sweetest of Thieves’ is just dripping with emotion from the get go, a nice piano melody creates a platform for Smith’s sweet, soulful voice to pierce through and really hit you hard. I especially liked that the melody built up and became more complex as the track continued, and in response Sheridan just pushed that little bit harder when singing, the result is wonderful.

‘Listen to the Rain’ is another song that is just filled with a broadly resonating emotional core. I think this might be my favourite on the album because I honestly think you could listen to it on repeat for hours. You just get lost in Sheridan’s voice and the simple piano and percussive driven instrumental backing.

‘The One’ shows another magnificent side to her voice as she just blasts out this powerful track accompanied by a deep, resonant piano that’s quickly enjoyed by some faster, higher energy guitars which build the complexity of the overall melody. This track was so great when I first heard it I was surprised it wasn’t the closer, because it just had some phenomenal energy to it. It felt like a triumphant finale to what has been an incredibly strong album.

‘Don’t Beg for Love’ did not quite have the natural ending feeling that the previous track did, but nonetheless it was an amazingly deep track that showed even greater depth to Sheridan’s voice. Plus the added benefit of this being the last track is we get treated to one more track before the album concludes. I am really excited for any future releases from Sheridan Smith because this entire album has just been one amazing track after another.

So that’s what I thought of Sheridan Smith’s Album ‘A Northern Soul’ and if you want to check it out for yourself then head on over to Spotify. While you’re at it make sure and support the artist by following them on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

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