Lucy Rose, Barfly, London


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The Independent Culture

There is a rare sense of occasion in Camden tonight, a feeling that momentum has got right behind this quietly determined artist from deepest Warwickshire.

Perched on a stool, though still barely visible above the crowd, Lucy Rose announces her music has just been on Skins, she is on the cover of a free monthly listings magazine and someone on Wikipedia has called her “a ginger knob”.

For the record, Rose is more strawberry blonde and a mate demonstrated how the online encyclopaedia worked by claiming she had dated Bombay Bicycle Club’s Jack Steadman. Instead, that is just one of the bonds Rose has forged since arriving in London four-years ago aged 18. She has sung backing vocals for the folk-pop group while tramping around the city’s acoustic nights, posting videos and releasing a series of warmly received singles – a strategy paying off as latecomers peer round a corner into the crammed main space.

It is worth squeezing in to catch much of Rose’s short set. While her winsome tones make Laura Marling sound gravelly, there are enough suggestions of hidden depths to maintain interest over 50 minutes. The deceptively sweet ‘Gamble Like I Used To’ hints at lost weekends in the past, while ‘Bikes’ reminisces at more wholesome ways of getting kicks, the audience knowing when to scream on cue. Throughout, Rose picks her guitar strings as delicately as she sings, though this number rattles along aided by a sensitive four-piece band with a cellist for extra sophistication.

Rose is most engaging on these numbers that feature a jazz-funk rhythm reminiscent of Joni Mitchell or a more gentle Terry Callier, notably on previous single ’Scar’. ‘Red Face’, due for release later this month, shows further progression, setting up Rose as an English Suzanne Vega, with its swing and fixation on embarrassment. There is a similar sense of confusion on ‘First Time’, when the singer admits, “You’ve got a way of making me scared and safe”.

Elsewhere, Rose wallows in mild ennui as she tackles relationship issues, her measured delivery sounding awfully reasonable. ‘Shiver’ may be lovely to hear, but like several numbers lacks a killer line to stick in the mind. Maybe Rose is too self-conscious to put down her thoughts in stark enough terms. As she sighs while introducing the number used on Skins, ‘Don’t You Worry’, “If only we could all be that rebellious”.