A Whisker Away is the latest EP from Belfast based singer/songwriter Dani. It is a mixture of stripped down, acoustic tracks interspersed with some more raucous, blue inspired numbers. Dani wears her influences with pride and although there are some weaker moments, through her diverse range of influences she manages to plumb the depths and reach the majestic highs in a way that most singer songwriters can only hope.
Opening track “Balloons” is a standard vocals and acoustic guitar based track and brings no surprises. The guitar work is adequate and the minimal percussion and strings are suited to the atmosphere of the track. The most notable feature is Dani’s voice. It combines a clarity of delivery with a more smokey and sultry tone usually expected from more seasoned singers. The slight lilting accent is another appealing feature and marks her out among her peers.
“Heartbeats” is the standout track on the EP, and with good reason. Compared to “Balloons” there just seems to be a bit more thought put into this track. The guitar and drums, whilst still very much supporting the vocals, are less restrained and have improved dynamic range. The strings have been given free reign to craft some exquisite textures and they enhance the crescendos in a way that only strings can. It is the attention to detail that makes this track standout.The tin whistle that introduces itself towards the song’s chilling finale is another example of the fine craftsmanship.
The following two tracks bring with them a surprising shift in tone and style. “No Dice” and “The Castle” are both Delta blues inspired numbers that demonstrate Dani’s wider range of influences. For the most part, the instrumentation on the former is superb and stylistically true to established blues conventions. The distorted harmonica whilst authentic, is a bit of a cliche and departs a little too far from the moods established on the first two tracks. Another issue is that Dani’s vocals just don’t fit in with the increased aggression displayed in other areas of the track. It’s as though her vocal delivery hasn’t woken up to the shift in style and lacks the energy shown by the musicians.
As if in answer to this complaint, “The Castle” has slapped some distortion onto the lead vocals in an attempt to give them that added bite that is sorely lacking. The result is rather irritating to listen to repeatedly and comes across as forced. It would seem Dani hasn’t yet mastered the art of conveying the attitude that is required in this style of music.
The closing track is a cover of “The Auld Triangle”. Stylistically it is a return to the more successful formula of pure vocals accompanied by reserved musicianship. It is a brave decision to close A Whisker Away with such a well known and often covered song, but Dani manages to put her own distinct mark on it. It’s another successful exercise in subtlety.
A strong showing from a musician who is finding her true voice.