Album Review: Joel Harper-Jackson – So What Happens Now? / Makerman – Grove Hill / Rob Houchen

An album review of Joel Harper-Jackson’s So What Happens Now? and inspired by Marry Me A Little last night, I explore Makerman and Rob Houchen

“I don’t care if it hurts
I wanna have control”

Released just as the second lockdown kicked in, Joel Harper-Hackson’s debut album has ended up with a painfully apposite title – So What Happens Now?. I first spotted Harper-Jackson a few years as a standout in a middling new musical and have enjoyed following his career since then, not least in the Hope Mill’s gorgeous production of Little Women. Interestingly, this album largely eschews the world of musical theatre for the world of popular music, albeit reimagined through the wonderfully moody arrangements of Greg Morton.

Piano, guitar and cello thus come to the fore to underscore mournful takes on ‘Jolene’ and ‘The Man That Got Away’, the quavering vocal at the beginning of ‘Another Suitcade in Another Hall’ really refocuses the song’s emotion, and the shivering sparseness of ‘Wicked Game’ hits harder than usual, especially once the dramatic stakes are raised. Unexpectedly effective though is the duet on ‘Tragedy’ with Jodie Steele which utterly reinterprets the rueful acceptance of the song in a way which makes complete sense. ‘Creep’ with Lauren Byrne is pretty damn good too. If ever there was an album to cry-listen to whilst looking through a rainy November window and eating a packet of biscuits, this is that album and this is that moment. Highly recommended.

Richard Fleeshman and Celinde Schoenmaker released an EP under the name Makerman earlier this year and I wish I’d clocked that at the time as it would have made lockdown #1 just a little bit more bearable. A little bit folk, a little bit country, a whole lot acoustic, the Grove Hill EP is a great collection of songs. Recalling the under-appreciated P!nk side-project You+Me and the late lamented Civil Wars, delicate guitar lines dance around some gorgeous close harmonies on the darkly beautiful ‘Big Mistake’ and something seductively and sinuously strange coils around ‘Burning Down’. I hope this isn’t the last we hear of this project.

Schoenmaker’s co-star in Marry Me A Little is Rob Houchen and if you head over to Spotify, he’s got quite the back catalogue of singles and EPs and a nifty way with a compelling cover picture too! There’s a mixture of musical theatre covers – the At Home EP of ‘Finishing the Hat’, ‘Not While I’m Around’ and ‘She Used To Be Mine’ is stunning, There’s also a smattering of what I think are original songs, the decidedly dramatic ‘Endgame’ feels like a Bond theme in the making and ‘Dance Again’ is just a Cahill Club remix away from potential gay anthem status. An interesting different side to one of our brightest musical theatre actors.

And last but by no means least, I wanted to feature this song ‘All the Little Things’ which has been written by the marvellous Darren Clark, composer of The Curious Case of Benjamin Button and The Wicker Husband in support of the Hazlitt Theatre. The Hazlitt is the only theatre in Maidstone and like so many regional theatres across the UK, has been devastated by the loss of panto season and the budgetary constraints that councils are facing. 

So why not give the song – performed by youth theatre members Devon Cable and Lee Bradley – a listen and sign the petition to #savetheHazlitt.


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