“Do we ever really know?”
Joe Sterling’s debut album Somewhere In My Mind has lingered in my iTunes folder for ages now and I’ve never quite got round to listening to it. But thanks to the randomness of the shuffle function and the inspired use of Virgin Pendolino in a rhyme, its presence reasserted itself and I gave the collection a listen. With lyricist Robert Gould, Sterling has written a couple of musicals, one of which – Roundabout – is featured heavily here, and he’s gathered an interesting collection of performers to sing their way through his first songbook.
I say interesting because it eschews many of the familiar names who pop up on this type of album and thus showcases a range of talent who may not necessarily be familiar to you or I. Rosa O’Reilly’s gorgeous pop vocal on the plaintive ‘Ships That Pass In The Night’ immediately marks her out as someone I want to know more about, Jonathan Williams find a similar purity in early track ‘Gone’ and Sterling delivers the guitar-led charms of ‘You Could Be The One, They Said’ with a lovely lightness that is persuasive and not a little attractive.
There is a pleasing level of quality across the record too, in my three listens there wasn’t a song I skipped. Ross Hunter’s opening ‘Sophie’s Song’ is a powerful paean to parting lovers, Rhiannon Sarah Porter (another name I’m going to be investigating) creates a thing of sheer loveliness in the restrained beauty of ‘The Sky Looks Grey To Me’, Killian Donnelly navigates the bruised masculinity of ‘Shadows’ perfectly and Kit Orton, winner of the 2013 Best Supporting Actor in a Musical fosterIAN no less, rounds things off perfectly with the stirring ‘What We Are Here For’.
As for the songwriting, there’s a wonderful punchiness to much of the music, a pop sensibility that is most appealing and one which makes the collection remarkably easy to listen to. Fragments of story peek through, suggesting the wider context of the musicals from which they’re plucked, but there’s an immediacy that forms instant connections to its audience and this makes Sterling someone to look out for. Another feather in the cap for the immensely important role that SimG Productions has in nurturing the future of musical theatre in the UK and a hugely exciting writing talent to watch out for.