Last week – whilst we were spending an inordinate amount of time procrastinating rather than dissertation writing – when we came across one of the most exciting new artists on the soul scene today, Australia’s Chelsea Wilson. Australia has been producing some hot soul acts in recent years, including the brilliant Electric Empire whose debut album was well received around the world, and if her debut album is anything to go by, Chelsea Wilson is sure to the next big Australian soul/jazz artist. Growing up on a diet of the great jazz vocalists of Ella Fitzgerald, Billie Holiday and Sarah Vaughn, Wilson became a vocalist and studied music at the Queensland Conservatorium of Music before becoming a performer around the world. In recent months Wilson has supported Macy Gray on tour, and is about to host her UK debut in London later this month at the lovely JazzCafe.
I Hope You’ll Be Very Unhappy Without Me was released last Winter, and it’s only now making waves in the UK, reaching #29 on the Solar Radio Sweet Rhythms Chart. One listen to the album, and its easy to understand why. The album is pure ‘60s/’70s soul, mixed with a more than a hint of jazz, produced brilliantly and featuring some pretty good musicians. The title track is a cover of the Esther Philips tune (also covered by ‘70s disco legends Tavares); Philips is clearly an important influence on Wilson’s musical development, her arrangement stays pretty true to Philips’ original, albeit with an even tastier horn arrangement and added sass from Wilson. It is quite simply wonderful.
In addition to the title track, Wilson adds in another cover, Neyo’s ‘Closer’, and gives it a ‘70s funk makeover: the production and arrangement on this tune is mesmerising. The rest of the album comprises of eight original compositions written by Wilson herself. A particular highlight is ‘Bitterness’, a song in the Stax/Hi-Records Memphis soul style, which Wilson delivers beautifully: Jake Manson and Rohon Wallis impress on the horns, as does Ivan Khatchoyan on drums, recreating that classic tight-drum sound well. Lance Ferguson’s guitar playing is Buddy Guy-esque, complimenting Wilson’s heart-wrenching vocals stunningly.
The album’s opening number ‘Through With Lovin’ You’ sounds as though it could be another Mark Ronson-Amy Winehouse collaboration, whilst ‘I Let A Good Man Down’ could meanwhile easily be recorded by the likes of Sharon Jones & The Dap-Kings. Wilson is not only a beautiful singer, but also an equally impressive writing talent. Another highlight of the album is the exquisite ‘Don’t Stop For Nothing’, a song which is clearly influenced by the Blaxploitation soul of Isaac Hayes and Curtis Mayfield, complete with Shaft-esque drum beat and wah-wah guitar.
For all these similarities, the album feels remarkably fresh. Wilson has done something that many fail to do: draw on the past whilst not simply recreating it, nor recreating it poorly. I Hope You’ll Be Unhappy Without Me is a seriously impressive debut album from Chelsea Wilson, demonstrating her ability to breathe new life into the classic soul sound, as well as her ability to sing soul and jazz, and to write exciting new songs. We may only have just got this album, but we’re already itching for more.
You can listen to the title track on SoundCloud below; for more information on Chelsea Wilson, you can visit her website here. To purchase I Hope You’ll Be Very Unhappy Without Me on CD click here, for a download click here. Chelsea Wilson will also be making her debut in London at the JazzCafe on 30th June, click here for more details.