As she embarks on another tour of the UK and Ireland, it’s time to get acquainted with Hannah Aldridge’s latest album, released at the tail end of April when she was last on these shores. Aldridge, who grew up in Muscle Shoals, has certainly been a hit with UK audiences over the past few years, her live shows given rave reviews, so it’s nice to have a live album to ponder on. However, Live In Black And White is not a straightforward run through of a live show, rather, it captures selections from her two albums, Razor Wire and Goldrush, recorded at two locations – Tangled String in Huntsville Alabama and The Lexington in London. The Lexington show was particularly memorable as Aldridge offered the punters that night a variety show peopled with several acts, all of them performing at least one song with her and several of these feature here.
The first thing to say is that this stripped down acoustic version of Aldridge really allows both her songs and herself to shine. Both Razorwire and Goldrush suffered somewhat from overly energetic rock arrangements but listening to the perfect renditions here of Lie Like You Love Me (featuring Walt Aldridge, her dad and a well known songwriter in his own right) and Goldrush, which has Robbie Cavanagh singing with her, and you will realise that her writing is on a par with the likes of Gretchen Peters and others of that ilk. They’re both dark songs, alluding to Aldridge’s troubled past and she’s at her best when she’s digging into darker or more emotional territory as on the moving Lonesome or the scathing blues of Howlin Bones. Still dark but casting beyond personal woes is the death row story of Parchman while Born To Be Broken was inspired by the life of Thomas Jefferson’s slave mistress. Listening to this one is really reminded that Aldridge is a child of The South with all that entails, her voice deep and impassioned.
As for the guests, Danni Nicholls joins in on Lace, a lingering and lascivious number oozing with desire, while The Black Feathers are fine vocal foils on Save Yourself. But it’s The Goat Roper Band’s joyous freewheelin’ knockabout on Rails To Ride which is the highlight here. Mind you, the closing rendition of Aldridge’s best known song, Burning Down Birmingham, is excellent. Aldridge is in the habit of selecting audience members to join her on stage to sing the rousing chorus but here it’s a mass gathering of all The Lexington musicians who lift the song.
Live In Black And White allows Ms. Aldridge to strip away her studio trappings and deliver her songs in a raw fashion and it’s all the better for that. Highly recommended and a must buy album for anyone who has been captivated by her live shows or enjoyed the studio albums.