Country Jukebox Jury: Luke Flear and Simeon Hammond Dallas

Luke Flear – Looks Country To Me

This August brings projects from two acts who have done more than just put out a track or two, going for an EP or LP.

Luke Flear’s 12-track debut announces this Leeds-born singer who has moved across to country. Like Hunter Hayes before him, Luke plays drums and guitar on the album. He has definitely studied the modern sound of his fellow Lukes, Bryan and Combs.

The opening pair, the title track and Alive, set the album’s mood with flecks of banjo and solid choruses. Luke’s voice is given light reverb throughout. It is clear without being punchy, akin to that of Sam Palladio (Gunnar from Nashville). Tassels and Flares (great title) has another catchy chorus and could have gone on twice its length, while November Night is a toe-tapper with some stuttering vocals that mimic the euphoria of new love. I love the rhyme of ‘blushing/shushing’!

Luke has, as country music’s mission statement affirms, put his life in a song, as on Young, a pretty ditty where he says he is ‘still chasing dreams’. He also knows his way around a slow song, as on the gentle lament sung from a motel room, I Left My Heart At Home, and the anthem for drinking one’s cares away, Today Ain’t The Day (‘dance with the devil in the glass’). Red Vodka appears on the album in two versions, justifying its status as the album’s serious song. Piano chords underscore a sombre lyric full of cigarettes in ashtrays and an inability to ‘let go of you’.

Cross The Line, which namechecks songs by Keith Urban and George Jones, skips along jauntily over three familiar chords as Luke tries to convince a lady to go with him; indeed, These 3 Chords (which actually has four!) has him wishing to sing ‘a song that hasn’t been sung’. As per the final track, Luke has Something To Say, and hits some fine falsetto which he may seek to employ more on future projects.

Simeon Hammond Dallas – Make It Romantic EP

Often spotted busking on the South Bank of the Thames, Simeon Hammond Dallas is one of the rising stars of roots music in the UK and plays The Long Road festival this August. She also goes out on the road opening for Lady Nade in October, with a London date at Cecil Sharp House on the 12th.

The five-track EP includes A Hundred Lovers, a song which is full of character and melodic heft with a vocal that reminds me of all those women from the 1990s like Jewel or Sarah McLachlan. This is music you can’t put in a genre box.

The Blues is a Game has a freewheeling arrangement over which Simeon’s tremulous vocal sits. It’s a hell of a way to start the project, boasting of being ‘a good, good woman with a good, good heart’.

Betting On You begins ‘I fell in love with two dozen white boys…I’m just a chick in some bar’, probably in her home of Camden Town. The acoustic guitar pattern perfectly sets the lyric, which is sung with gusto and vulnerability. There is more of the former than the latter on Fucking Her, a set of accusations made over a great band arrangement.

The EP’s magnificent title track is a relief to hear after the anger of the previous track. The vocal performance is a match for the best voices on the UK scene. Kezia Gill, Jade Helliwell, Elles Bailey and Yola are now her peers and Simeon will earn plenty more fans this year. At least she isn’t competing with the South Bank for people’s attention!

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