Album: Phantom Limb, Phantom Limb (Naim)

Click to follow
The Independent Culture

Two years after forming at the end of 2004, Phantom Limb's progress was derailed when singer Yolanda Quartey fell ill.

When she regained her voice six months later, the band eased her back in with a series of low-key acoustic rehearsals which completely changed their approach, as they accessed a more intimate, emotionally potent style of country-soul music. Quartey is a phenomenal talent, drawing on gospel, soul and country inflections to produce a range of effects: on "Withering Bones", her flatted blue notes combined with the country-blues backing creates a sound akin to Mick Jagger on Let It Bleed, while elsewhere, the dark strings and vocal elisions of "Spring Flowers" bring to mind Jeff Buckley. She can lay it on thick – both "Playing With Death" and "I'll Never Be The Same Again" are too overwrought – but for most of the time she's confidently between downcast and distraught, sketching emotional turmoil in sharply observed details, like the acknowledgement of maturity in "Good Fortune": "The arch of a shoulder, the touch of a hand/You got older, and learned to be a man". The band, meanwhile, display sensitivity, illuminating the blue shadows cast by organ and piano with subtle glints of acoustic and pedal steel guitar, building up a mantra-like power on "The Hard Way".

Download this: Don't Say A Word; The Hard Way; Withering Bones; Spring Flowers