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-  Label: 'www.staggeringsiren.com'
-  Genre: 'Alt/Country' -  Release Date: '2005'

Our Rating:
Winging its way over cross the Atlantic ocean like a silver bird comes a 7 song EP titled LOSERS LOVERS LIARS from VAL ESWAY & EL MIRAGE. Well… silver is perhaps pushing it but the cover does have what looks like a tinfoil cigarette wrapper stuck on the cover. Which is cool – I fully support hand crafted CD covers – most of the ‘proper’ ones I find deadly dull to be honest.

As to the musical content - Esway performs firmly in a folky alt-country vein along the lines of Gillian Welch and Victoria Williams. However, the ‘How To Play Guitar vol.1, chapter 1’ strummed intro on ‘Someone I Used To Know’ made me very apprehensive indeed. I feared a painfully sincere adolescent sing-along was in store – thankfully the song improves after about 5 seconds and settles into a pleasant laid back country groove with some good harmonies (Esway herself double tracked I think) and slide guitar. ‘High & Dry’ which has a really nice stinging guitar solo fails only because of the rather clichéd first person confessional lyrics.

So after two inconsistent efforts the quality picks up considerably on ‘One Balmy Night’, a murder ballad slightly reminiscent of The Handsome Family with a strong melody and ‘Birds (Pick At You While You Sleep)’, which has a lovely sparse arrangement, excellent harmonies and is picked rather than strummed – my one qualm about it is that it’s a bit too short.

My favourite song on the record, ‘Ringer’, is also a first person confessional. Here however the imagery and imagination of the lyrics do no disservice to the music. Esway’s vocal delivery is compelling without being overcooked – indeed she is at her most effective I feel when she eases off on the ‘emotional’ pedal when singing. Sometimes the tone is just that wrong side of angst-ridden but here the voice is just right. Also the song has some good chord changes and an especially nice closing harmony note. ‘Lowdown Lonesome Lovesick Blues’ is a bit too lyrically and vocally overwrought I feel but the set closes on a high point - ‘Go Ahead and Wreck My Heart’ with its brushed drums, rattlesnake guitar and smoky atmosphere.

Indeed throughout the EP the arrangements and production is by and large impressive and Val gets some very sympathetic and focused backing from her sidekicks EL MIRAGE. Keep those people together I’d say Ms. Esway. So in a nutshell a strong set from a promising artist. The late night bourbon soaked feel is highly appealing and if Esway further develops her songwriting skills then we should hear more of her in the future.
  author: Michael Daly

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