I played this lady's CD twice tonight on a long drive home,
I don't remember when I was so amazed at a singer / songwriter's work.
No whining platitudes, strong stories and great arrangements
and she sings from the soul.
Every now and again an album comes along that totally lifts the spirits.
And ‘Dandelion’ is exactly that type of album - and so much more.
Mills is a popular figure in Calderdale due to her work as one quarter of much
Leeds-based band Waking The Witch.
by, among others, former Fairport Convention, Steeleye Span and Albion Band
Ashley Hutchings - who contributed to three tracks on the album
- she has built a reputation
as a quality artist whose work demands not just to be heard but to be LISTENED to.
showcases Becky’s talents perfectly. A supremely gifted singer-songwriter,
storyteller, musician, poet, realist and dreamer; the album makes for a potent mix
that grabs you from the opening bars of the sublime, ‘Amy Sharpe’ and
doesn’t let go
until the closing notes of final track ‘Monkey’.
musicianship and arrangements over 10 finely-crafted songs,
a couple of which
have been a staple of Becky’s live act for some time
(‘Pretty Young Things’ and ‘Princess and the Pea’), are beautifully textured.
is impossible to pick out a highlight as every track is a delight.
Country and Folk influences are woven into the fabric, revealing tales
as diverse as the plight of Huddersfield prostitutes and a family trip to the seaside.
is a confident piece of work by somebody totally at one with their music.
Mills may well have written the album of her life. however, I personally feel
still more to come from this particular Yorkshire lass.
songwriter Becky Mills has always worked well in collaboration,
whether it be
as one quarter of the much missed all-female quartet Waking the Witch or as
one half of the duo with ex-band mate Patsy Matheson.
is also pretty much at home as a solo performer, delivering quality songs
and again and returns here with a fresh set of ten self-penned songs, each
and performed with an emphasis on fine vocal delivery and gentle harmonies throughout.
The album gets off to a flying start with an unexpected banjo-led
Amy Sharpe, which not only showcases Becky's ability
to move away from the 'delicate'
to embrace the 'tough', but also features some
fine slide playing courtesy of Frank Mizen.
The banjo returns later in the
album on lilting The North Wind Will, both songs delivered with
unanticipated confidence. In other places, Becky returns to the gentle approach
with such songs as the soothing Dandelions and Foxgloves, from which the album
the brooding and atmospheric The Princess and the Pea and the
kitchen sink drama
described so delicately in the outstanding Pretty Young
Joined by a carefully selected cast of musicians, DANDELION stands as a
fine example of
Becky's exceptional songwriting ability and serves as a
captivating introduction for those
who may have missed Becky's previous work.
It's always a treat when an album grabs your attention with the opening bars of the first track.
Such is the case with Becky Mills' Dandelion and Amy Sharpe.
If the rockabilly-style sound doesn't set your toes tapping and your fingers clicking within the blink of an eye
then perhaps you shouldn't be listening to this.
The tracks do slow down from this though and you get the richness of Mills' voice,
the creamy and deep sounds on I Saw the Sun Today and Pretty Young Things
which has more than a touch of Kate Rusby about it,but is distinctive enough not to be confusing.
The soft unblemished tones of her voice are almost contradictory to the content of some of her songs
most notably Pretty Young Things with lines such as:
"So I found a job dancing that required tits and teeth, I took a room in a bed sitting house,
All my friends made their money from walking the streets, 'cos they hadn't a tooth in their mouths"
Mills has the perfect voice for folk, it fits in beautifully with her acoustic guitar skills and yet is
distinctive enough not to be lost in the milieu of all the other female voices on the circuit.
For a first album Dandelion exudes maturity in terms of the songwriting and confidence in the singing
where tracks such as Leeds Lullaby and Let It Go show her versatility and her willingness
to put a toe into the water of country sounding tunes.
Princess and the Pea is a gorgeous song rich and lyrical and with a great chorus
"Please throw a stone at my window, and climb into my room, and
I'll pretend that I was sleeping in makeup and perfume."
There are some really evocative tracks on this album such as Family, which will illicit a
wide range of emotions from most listeners as Mills' silky tones sink into the psyche.
The toe tapping comes back with The North Wind Will with Mills' singing complemented
by the banjo picking of Frank Mizen.
Perhaps the most traditional song on the album is Dandelions and Foxgloves which is a gentle ballad
where Mills' voice is at its most pure and washes over you like a gentle sea breeze on a warm beach.
With the final track Monkey there is again the contradiction with Mills' light and almost playful voice
singing about dark themes of the rocky path of love. There is also a secret bonus track Smelly Joe
which is a light song to end on and evokes the sound of the great Joni Mitchell.
Overall this is a really thoughtful and endearing album that deserves its place in any folk collection.
Spild Records/Proper Distribution
A welcome return from
Becky Mills with a new solo album featuring powerful stories, exquisitely arranged and
sung from the soul; every track is a joy.
A decade ago Becky Mills was recording solo albums and working with Pentangle and Fairport Convention –
including singing Sandy Denny's part on their finale song.
Later she joined the
award-winning Waking the Witch, co-wrote
two successful albums and toured with them,
playing Glastonbury, Trowbridge
and Cambridge Folk Festivals to great acclaim.
Close collaboration with Ashley Hutchings (Fairport, Steeleye Span, The Albion Band) followed.
And now,after the birth of her son, Becky has released Dandelion, another
solo album of original songs -
which is a triumph!
Every track is a joy.
As Mike Harding has commented, Becky's singing and writing abilities are
and the absence of whining
platitudes are so welcome!
range of material here, from the
whimsical Princess and the Pea and I Saw the Sun Today –
as it may seem, an ode to Pudsey, Yorkshire, through to the
powerful Pretty Young Things
(about prostitutes in Huddersfield) and the
lyrical Leeds Lullaby.
The arrangements are exquisite throughout and the production is strong.
Becky Mills deserves far
wider recognition for the unique talent she clearly is.
Hopefully the release of Dandelion will bring that a step closer.
DANDELION - Becky Mills
‘Dandelion’ opens with a blinding banjo driven ‘Amy Sharpe’. It was not what I expected.
It’s not a criticism in any way.It was just a surprise, a pleasant surprise.
However, the next tracks followed the more traditional route and highlighted Becky’s
mellifluous tones and songwriting skills.
However, it is not always what it seems and underneath this initial supposed sweetness and light,
is a darker underbelly. ‘Pretty Young Things’ explores lost lives in a world where ‘Old men want their pretty
young things till their bright little faces fade’ and desperate women in a pained world resort to
‘dancing that only requires tits and teeth.’
‘Monkey’, the final song, complements it with its bitter plaintive lyrics. For me this was the greatest track on the CD
and I still cannot get it out of my head. It haunts me as I write. Of the other songs,
’The North Wind Will’ echoes the pace of ‘Amy Sharpe’, ‘Dandelions and Foxgloves’, ‘Princess and the Pea’
in contrast, offer a more traditional folk approach in both form and content.
I am not alone in praising this album. Mike Harding said ‘I played this this lady’s CD twice …on a long drive home.
I don’t remember when I was so amazed at a singer/songwriter’s work…’she sings from the soul’.
In addition to her musicianship, Becky Mills is a strong storyteller feeding on her observations and emotions.
In some ways, her narrative expertise reminded me of the earlier songs of Al Stewart.
All the songs on Dandelion were written and recorded in Becky’s Knaresborough flat
(you can hear street sounds if you listen very carefully)
and Active Audio Studios, in Harrogate, and features quite a few of her very talented friends.
Overall, it’s a fantastic album, rich in both musicianship and artistic sensibility.