Gemma Hayes - The Roads Don't Love You

Clark Summers 31/10/2005

Rating: 3/5

Three years on from her critically acclaimed debut album “Night On My Side” Gemma Hayes returns with the kind of polished album that thrust Source label mates Turin Brakes firmly into the mainstream. Having recruited Beck/R.E.M. drummer Joey Waronker as producer and some talented session players from L.A. as her backing band her new album definitely sounds promising on paper. “T.R.D.L.Y.” is by turns dreamy and work(wo)manlike folk pop for mass consumption. Opener “Two Step” wouldn't sound out of place on Coldplay's “Parachutes” while the subtle electronic nuances of “Happy/Sad” recall Beth Orton in her prime. Hayes sounds best however in stripped back acoustic mode as on the lilting, world weary folk ballad “Easy On The Eye” - her Nick Drake styled folk picking off-set by a stunning vocal performance. Hayes' love of My Bloody Valentine seems to have been toned down to the extent of being non-existent on this record. The driving guitars of her debut are a distant memory and unfortunately as a result the album suffers from a lack of variety at times veering dangerously close to the middle of the road (“Undercover”). Fortunately there's enough quality material here to stave off accusations of blandness and given a touch of luck she could find her move towards the centre ground being rewarded with a place in the singer-songwriter big league.