Non-Nordic Sunday: Lavinia Blackwall – ‘John’s Gone’ (single)
Prior to setting out on a solo career at the back end of 2018, Lavinia Blackwall or BlackwAll as she originally styled herself, was the golden-throated front woman and nifty keyboard player for the Glaswegian psych-folk-prog band Trembling Bells, although she’s actually from Derbyshire. Glasgow being a city that has attracted a fair number of Nordic artists to settle there over the years I thought she’d make an interesting feature for the Non-Nordic spot this week.
I saw her perform to a sold-out Castle Hotel in Manchester around this time last year during which her striking and classically-trained soprano was supplemented by a contralto voice and even some of the grunts you would associate with symphonic metal vocalists. She really does have it all in her locker.
Now she will release her debut solo album ‘Muggington Lane End’ which is out on May 1st and this is a track from it.
Recorded live, the album is a mixture of longing, exuberance, and psychedelia and many of the vocals were recorded in one take. Muggington Lane End began in 2018, with two tracks being recorded with former Trembling Bells band mates Mike Hastings and Simon Shaw and she thought her solo project would be called 'Orion's Belt', similar to that of an Oslo lo-fi trio (Orions Belte). But as Hastings and Shaw were very busy with their own projects she began working with a new group of people and that moniker was ditched in favour of her eponymous one; perhaps an indicator that this would become her most personal work yet.
Actually, she did perform ‘John’s Gone’ at that Manchester show, and I noted at the time that it is “about John” as Lavinia helpfully explained. It could be John Shuttleworth for all I know, that Graham Fellows character seems to fit the lyrics. It’s couched in a 1960s Beatle-like style, songs like ‘Maxwell’s Silver Hammer’ fit the same mould in style if not in content, even parts of ‘A Day in the Life’.
While the Manchester show demonstrated she will carry some elements of Trembling Bells with her, as indeed Alex Nielson has continued to do in his ‘Alex Rex’ persona, it is clear from this song alone that she has her own ideas, somewhat lighter in tone perhaps than Trembling Bells, and that she relishes the opportunity to record and (when and how possible) perform them.