Album Review: Samantha Barks – Samantha Barks (2016)


“Remember the glass we charged in celebration”

Samantha Barks has come a long way from Saturday night BBC talent shows – to the West End to blockbuster film musicals and performing at the Oscars, even appearing on Bear Grylls: Mission Survive. It’s taken her a little while to get around to releasing her self-titled first album – a mixture of original tracks, pop songs and stagier fare – but on this evidence, it has been well worth the wait with a beautifully assured, intimate collection.

There’s nothing forced about Barks’ approach on Samantha Barks here – the fireworks of Moulin Rouge’s ‘One Day I’ll Fly Away’ and Disney charm of Hercules’ ‘Go The Distance’ are delivered with a real restraint, and the less theatrical choice of song come slightly from left-field – the elegant piano and strings of Burt Bacharach and Elvis Costello’s ‘This House Is Empty Now’ is strikingly mature and yet superbly heartfelt, The Band Perry’s ‘If I Die Young’ delicately affecting too. 

One of the more affecting aspects of Samantha Barks is the way in which it is personalised in interesting ways. Les Misérables’ On My Own naturally appears and she nods back to her I’d Do Anything days with a gently acoustic trip through ‘As Long As He Needs Me’ which perfectly highlights its rueful sentiment. She also pays loving tribute to her Isle of Man heritage with a beautiful Manx folk song Ellan Vannin which rounds off the album well. 

Of the original songs, ‘Troublemaker’ explores a country-influenced vein and ‘Hard To Find’ is a gorgeously crafted ballad that again demonstrates the aching maturity that has come to Barks’ voice. And you can’t go much wrong with Randy Newman’s ‘When He Loved Me’ which works the top end of her register with style, marking a notable debut for Samantha Barks on the recording scene, making me wish I’d gone to see her recent tour and ensuring that her upcoming appearance in The Last Five Years will be unmissable.

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