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Widely adopted by the blues fraternity over the past few years as one of the genre's exciting new breed and potential future hegemonists, and bestowed with a series of prestigious accolades in the British Blues Awards year after year, it seems the ridiculously talented guitarist/singer Chantel McGregor has been slowly shifting away from her roots into heavier/rockier territory. Sonic glimpses into her more musically eclectic palette were evident on her aptly titled 2011 debut album, 'Like No Other'; although, now, four years on, her sophomore full-length platter of compositions, 'Lose Control', is set to distance her further still from the delimiting blues tag for which she seems to be perennially associated. Forget genre parameters here; this is Chantel's passion laid bare in a series of melodically infectious, affectively compelling tunes that are stripped-down rock at core, but with occasional deviations into metal, heartfelt ballad, and prog territories.

Her stylistically varied journey has been coloured with dark, melancholic and more uplifting moods, so there's already a lot of emotional depth in a compositional sense. And the frequent prominence of songs' dark/melancholic vibe reflects the album's lyrical matter, as Chantel has drawn inspiration from the Southern Gothic literary subgenre (plus associated artwork and representations across a range of other media) to thematically bind tracks together. However, there's also an authentically organic and emotional profundity to the songs that's engendered by Chantel's wonderfully expressive voice and natural fluidity of her fretboard work. With a tonally wide range to her voice, she also flavours her singing with all manner of inflections that gives her performance a rather captivating quality. Guitar-wise, Chantel's evidently a technically gifted player although her soloing never feels forced or for-the-sake-of virtuosity. Quite the contrary, this lady's playing transcends her virtuosic abilities; it's more about pure emotional expression than any notion of technicality.

The overall sound of the album is fantastic too. With production duties, once again, in the more than capable hands of Livingstone Brown (with Chantel co-producing), the organic rock nature of songs have a well-balanced amount of resonant punch in all the right places. Her lead tone has that warm, melt-in-your-mouth lushness and her rhythm sound has a chunky, resonant distortion that matches Bob Rock's finest work with Metallica (we'll forget about 'St. Anger' of course, with its inexplicably bad, yet intended rawer dynamic). And the album's mellower moments sound equally great - the melodically and hauntingly sublime 'Anaesthetise', 'Home' and 'Eternal Dream', where the songs' inherent moods are enhanced by a little cello and violin, have been produced and mixed to perfection. In fact, Livingstone's responsible for most of the bass playing on the album too (with Chantel also performing additional parts), and talented sticksman Keith McPartling, who also happens to be Chantel's live drummer, is the man behind the driving rhythmic backbone of each song on which he plays.

The album climaxes with its lengthiest track by far, a seven and a half minute, prog-swayed piece titled 'Walk on Land' which, for me, encapsulates the entire essence of the album in a single composition. It kind of works as a sonic abstract for all that's gone before. This song has it all, and its lengthier duration affords Chantel more breathing space to explore melodies and develop central motifs in a more laid-back context. It lacks the stripped-down rockier vibe that characterises a lot of the album's songs, although still adheres to a nicely organic spirit, and creates a hard-hitting heaviness as it builds towards a climactic crescendo. Not only that, but it's progressive within its own space, rather than assuming prog as a genre, despite its evident Steven Wilson influence (someone Chantel makes no secret of idolising). A fitting finale to an incredibly enjoyable second album from a considerably talented musician. Personally, I'd love to see Chantel collaborate with the Porcupine Tree frontman at some point in the future. Can you imagine? That'd indubitably spawn pure sonic dynamite! For now, though, we have 'Lose Control', her own explosive gem of a record.
Tis Rock Music
Review by Mark Holmes
9th Oct 2015
1) Take the Power
2) Your Fever
3) Burn Your Anger
4) Anaesthetize
5) Southern Belle
6) Lose Control
7) Home
8) Killing Time
9) Eternal Dream
10) Walk on Land
"...this is Chantel's passion laid bare in a series of melodically infectious, affectively compelling tunes that are stripped-down rock at core, but with occasional deviations into metal, heartfelt ballad, and prog territories."