This may be Salwa Azar’s debut album but this lady has clearly been working hard for some time now playing gigs and honing her craft. Her first EP Seasons Change was released in July 2010 and with several EP’s under her belt we finally get the chance to hear her debut full-length album Black Feather Wooden Chair, one which is as beautiful and charming as it is mystical.
Recorded in Fulham, London, and engineered by Matt Hill this little gem of self-penned stories, fables and folktales took over 18 months to get it down to the finished article but was definitely worth the wait.
Salwa says she was brought up on a mixture of classical and world music and only really branched into folk in her early 20’s. Listening to the album, although you can hear many different genres within, the mainstay of the album definitely lies on that folk shelf although there are hints of Americana, Country, Bossa Nova and even a taste of laid back Jazz thrown in for good measure which add colour and variety throughout.
The core strength of the album lies in Salwa’s vocals, sung with clarity, sensitivity and charm, plus her ukulele – an impressive, unconventional tuning, that’s not at all familiar to me and more reminiscent of guitar technique.
Opening with Clouds, this short introduction paves the way to where we are heading, a mystical musical journey in dream time heightened by Salwa’s atmospheric cello playing and from here on in she simply continues to impress. Shine is a gentle yet haunting song exposing vulnerabilities and inner torment…”I just want to be heard, Shout at myself and scream at the world, Because everything focuses down to this one decision.”
On the cool jazzy Table Top Love the double bass of John Parker elegantly intermingles with Salwa’s ukulel, you can hear why Parker is so sought after in session work having performed on albums for the likes of Blue Rose Code, Josienne Clarke & Ben Walker and Paper Aeroplanes. From here she unfolds her world further with the strange but magical Floating in Milk and ghostly tales of White Horse.
We venture into a dark Celtic setting for Oarsman, a song which carries a strong cinematic atmosphere that would sit well in a film score for the likes The Vikings, placing you right into the very heart of the longboat as you travel across those still dark waters.
Vodka (Mon Amour) changes tempo and feel with traces of Americana and Country. A fun song that has that close intimate end of party feel. Taking walks along the beach with the scent of Eualyptus and Pine, at peace with the world and worries out of sight this provides an intimate insight into her world.
Poseidon Sea flows within the musical arena of Oarsman and definitely heads towards that darker side of folk with haunting yet alluring siren-like vocals. A very hook-laden little number follows with Fighter. Joined once again by John Parker the song ends on a bedouin-like cry to drive home her conviction of that repeated song mantra “no one’s going to get on over on me”.
Whilst Junkyard Car is indicative of the state of her broken love, the lyrics maintain a sage-like brightness and wit, a hint of acceptance and inner-strength. The album finishes with Untitled Folk Song a jaunty finale on which she sings with just her ukulele for company, proof that Salwa Azar is as inventive solo as she is with support.
Black Feather Wooden Chair is both gentle and bright, built on a solid bed-rock of talent. One that wraps and envelopes the listener into the quirky world of Salwa Azar, from start to finish it leaves you wanting more. Intelligent and well recorded, we’re looking forward to hearing more.
Definitely one worth checking out.
Review by: Malcolm Holmes
Black Feather Wooden Chair is Out Now
Order it via Bandcamp: https://salwa.bandcamp.com/