Reviews

Twisted (Single)

reviews

The first few bars of Twisted are evocative of a quiet, gentle folk song with a delicate acoustic guitar but do not be fooled. As this song slowly grows, it delivers a persistent, background guitar riff that creates a mid-tempo pop song infused with hints of both rock and soul, and, at times, an exquisite piano overlay that provides flow and rich layering. With powerful vocals and delivery, this is arguably the fiercest and saddest song melodically and lyrically. Twisted is overwhelmingly raw, dark, brutal and honest, and yet underneath the outpouring of hurt and lack of trust is an invincible soul emerging and fighting with every last breath and ounce of strength for her voice to be heard, for independence, identity and self-worth.  Sarah Bloodworth (independent music reviewer)

Last Minute (Single)

reviews

'The Last Minute' is a delightfully sung and beautifully composed stripped back delight with plenty of heart and a cool, chilled out, heartfelt vibe.  (4/5) KBPS Music Blog @KBPSMag

"Helen sings in rings of silver. This captivating, soft glide is given a special shine from the backing vocals of Bailey Tzuke & Judie Tzuke (10/10)" - Mark Watkins (radio presenter) @MarkWatkins210

For those of you lucky enough to spend your weekday mornings listening to Ken Bruce on BBC Radio Two whilst sipping your cup of coffee, then this new song from Helen Jayne could well be one you’ll hear.   With overtones of an American country sound, the song “Last Minute” features a piano sound reminiscent of Bruce Hornsby, complimented by a fine backing band and amazing vocals from Helen.  The production provides such a laid back feel to the song it conjures up a vision of strolling through New York City on a quiet Sunday morning.  So, sip your coffee, close your eyes and listen…..you’ll be on Fifth Avenue in no time……..over to you Ken Bruce!  Andy Brown (independent music reviewer)

The Last Minute EP - A Collection of Six Songs from Helen Jayne McKellar

a review by Sarah Bloodworth

Off the back of the recently released and poignantly written single, Surviving - a ballad in support of people living with chronic illness - comes Helen Jayne McKellar’s fourth studio collection, titled The Last Minute. As with all great artists, Helen is on an ever-evolving personal and creative journey; this EP is bold, brave and confronting without ever losing the vulnerability, intimacy and tenderness that draws us in emotionally and enables us to connect with ourselves and one another.  Musically, we experience new sounds that echo an eclectic mix of country, blues, jazz, soul-funk and even 80s synthesized pop.

 

Right from the outset, Helen means business. The first track Last Minute delivers an introduction that is unapologetically country in its influence, perhaps a graceful acknowledgement of Helen’s past recording experiences in Nashville, Tennessee, the very heart of country music. Alongside a mid-tempo arrangement of predominantly blues piano and organ keyboards, including a stylish instrumental mid-section, Helen laments poetically, “We’re a beautiful mess” in reference to a complex relationship in the last throes of breakdown. But all is not lost. The beauty is that Helen always manages to find a source of light: we may be broken and in a beautiful mess but survival and grace can come if we search from within. We have just “got to be strong”.

 

The first few bars of Twisted are evocative of a quiet, gentle folk song with a delicate acoustic guitar but do not be fooled. As this song slowly grows, it delivers a persistent, background guitar riff that creates a mid-tempo pop song infused with hints of both rock and soul, and, at times, an exquisite piano overlay that provides flow and rich layering. With powerful vocals and delivery, this is arguably the fiercest and saddest song melodically and lyrically. Twisted is overwhelmingly raw, dark, brutal and honest, and yet underneath the outpouring of hurt and lack of trust is an invincible soul emerging and fighting with every last breath and ounce of strength for her voice to be heard, for independence, identity and self-worth.

 

Ladies Night is an interesting and unexpected choice of cover but fits in smoothly with the EP’s overall theme and a perfect slot midway through the EP. Helen’s version is a modern and atmospheric pop revival that is both surprisingly upbeat and mellow at the same time. Warmly and inclusively, it also features Judie Tzuke writer of the 1978 original. This refreshing interpretation features synthesized sounds suggestive of the early 1980s, with Helen and Judie’s vocals also reminiscent of 80s icons Olivia Newton-John and Annie Lennox respectively. A slow build, Ladies Night has a quiet understated first half that is led predominantly by beautiful, crystal clear vocals from Helen before a synthesized instrumental (with a backing that salutes 80s pop classics such as Ultravox’s Vienna) kicks in half way through and we are transported back to the 80s and to the dulcet, alto tones of Judie Tzuke.

 

As we head into the second half of the EP, You’ve Come Home is a piano-based pop ballad that marks the start of a healing process. We are introduced to Helen’s angelic voice as the source of wisdom and comfort. The song continues the EP’s plea for authenticity, openness, sharing and honesty, and for accepting who we are and how we feel within the safety of loving, comforting arms. And therein lies our freedom and healing: We just need to come home. Musically, it’s a wonderful fusion of different influences and techniques. There are quiet, tender, reflective moments in the music with just a piano. There is also the use of a solo bell that rings out profoundly just once and prompts us to pause for thought and breathe before the use of synthesized sounds oscillate wildly in the background like the torrent nature of a clinging, distressed mind haunted and flooded by bad memories. Around the softly sung “You got to be free” are backing vocals that introduce a gospel quality appropriate for a message that could be absorbed as quite spiritual in nature. “Don’t you worry, you’ve come home” finishes on a deep, lengthy somber note that leaves it up to the listener to decide where that place is. It’s exquisitely put together.

 

If this an EP experimenting with new sounds, then Let Me Let You Go is an elegant nod to Helen’s previous musical offerings. It’s a beautiful, stripped back ballad offering nothing more than a sensitively played piano and Helen’s thoughtful, emotional vocals that could not fail to move even the most hardened of listeners. It’s a song filled with sadness, regret and acceptance reminiscent of Adele’s hugely successful Someone Like You. Except lyrically there is a little more depth. It’s a beautiful, gentle song ultimately about the need for release and renewal.

 

Musically, the EP signs off almost where it began with Always By Your Side returning to the country rhythms that were our entry point but this time with a lot more funky blues and jazz beats thrown in to lighten the mood. It’s a song about appreciating someone’s ongoing strength and endurance; hints of Helen’s light and playful side shine through on the freestyle instrumental as if within the new direction of her music and lyrics she’s found a freedom that is allowing her to have some fun. And maybe that’s the point: If we feel our authentic selves are truly seen, heard and supported, we can relax, chill and even dance a little. And then maybe, just maybe, “the answer will become very clear”.

 

The Last Minute EP takes us on a journey from heartbreak and chaos to inner strength and newly found identity and independence borne out of a willingness to be vulnerable and honest.  Helen’s message is clear: love is about uncovering and embracing our unique selves, being able to share our pain in a safe place without being judged, trusting and reaching out for help without fear of shame or humiliation, allowing ourselves to be beautiful in our vulnerability and imperfection, and about being heard, loved and accepted as we are right here right now within a deeply loving connection.

 

The Last Minute is a gift, an offering of support to anyone on any path who is lost, buried, alone, in pain and in need of comfort, hope and connection.