A pre-release copy of Woman, the first solo album by Mary-Anne "Poggy" Hatton has just come my way, another gem from the Smugglers Records collective down in Deal on the Kent coast.
The eleven tracks combine elements of 60s French pop sophistication, 80s jazz-pop (Style Council, Everything But The Girl, etc.) and touches of 90s triphop, Poggy's lyrics dealing with many aspects of womanhood, underlined by her striking vocal strength and confidence, ranging from Sade-like silkiness to the fierce authority of PJ Harvey. The whole thing is propelled along by superb drumming from her husband James and infused with the versatile twin guitars of Phil Self and her brother-in-law Dave Hatton, the latter bringing moments of Marc Ribot-style rawness and angularity to nicely offset the underlying sweetness of the record. Like the album's bassist, Billy Glynn, Phil and Dave are former bandmates of Poggy and James in Cocos Lovers, Smugglers' flagship band.
The rootsiness brought by the Cocos-and-friends crew is effectively contrasted by Richard Bundy's subtle 21st century production touches which at times bring to mind Stereolab or Radiohead (the dubbed-out section in "Memory" is particularly effective). Poggy's recent experience of singing with East Kent's Afrobeat/Ethio-jazz collective Volume 13 (also featuring several of the players on this album) is in evidence: there are some nice Afrobeat touches in the drumming and the choice of vintage keyboard sounds. Best of all are the harmony vocals (mostly Poggy harmonising with herself, but also with contributions from her sister Tasha and violinist Hetty Pound). These run through the album like interweaving veins of precious metal through a rockface. Her ability to put together vocal harmony arrangements like these, let alone sing all the parts the way she does, is particularly impressive. Her deep musicality is further demonstrated in her flute, accordion and cello contributions to the record.
"Need to Change", with its twitchy drum'n'bass-type rhythm, lends itself nicely to some impressive rapping from Oli, a.k.a. MC Kotchin, an old friend of the Smugglers collective (I remember him jumping on stage to spit some bars the first time I saw Cocos Lovers in early 2009). His American-accented R'n'B style of singing (on that track and "You're Alright") isn't quite to my taste, but still doesn't detract. I'm guessing it's also Oli who adds the Bobby-McFerrin-style vocal percussion at the end of the beautiful a cappella "Beautiful Woman". Closing track "Backstreet Blues" make clear the nature of Poggy's contribution to the second Cocos Lovers album Elephant Land (particularly on its standout song "Door to the Andes"). The simple piano lines on "Backstreet Blues" are a lovely touch, and the soulful Soweto-township-style singing feels completely natural, worlds away from the "world music" exploitation of Graceland, etc.
Woman clocks in at a perfect 46m. The warmth in this album's ensemble playing could only have been achieved by a tight friends-and-family group like this. Many of its songs got stuck in my head after a couple of listens and don't seem to be interested in moving out anytime soon...
Folken Magazine, Germany.
POGGY Woman (Eigenverlag, soundcloud.com/ poggyhattonmusic, 11 Tracks, 47:26)
Nicht einfach, heutzutage wahrgenommen zu werden. Poggy aus der Grafschat Kent versucht es dennoch mit einem erfahrenen Produzenten (Richard Bundy) und durchgehend eigenen Songs, immer spielerisch aus der Frauenperspektive. Die Melange aus Folk, Soul, Latin, Blues und Pop ist sehr ansprechend und das kurze A-cappella-Stück „Beautiful Woman“ beein- druckend.
An Amazon Reviewer
It was my great good fortune to have witnessed a performance by Mary-Anne “Poggy” Hatton
at the delightful Astor Community Theatre in the ridiculously quaint seaside town of Deal in Kent
on Friday evening supporting the magnificent Nell Bryden (do listen to her new album “Bloom”!)
Poggy is a local girl with a guileless, somewhat otherworldly, stage presence and a particularly
distinctive voice with a resonant middle and lower register. She told us that she is the youngest
of six siblings and that many of her songs are inspired by her idiosyncratic family experiences.
She sang about half a dozen of her own compositions and the audience seemed enchanted.
I might not have heard her album ‘Woman’, released in November last year, had it not been
for this chance encounter and I’m pleased to tell you that it is a very fine recording indeed.
Having an ensemble of sympathetic musicians at her disposal in the studio has given her
sound greater depth and complexity. Her music is a curious folk/jazz/Latin/blues hybrid and
these eleven tracks show her to be a truly fine songwriter in the mould of the great John Martyn.
Top tracks : Title number ‘Woman’, a lilting samba with delightful harmonies; ‘Is Your Love Free’,
a snappy arrangement with the warmth of the sun shining through it and ‘Cracks’, which is a
melancholy minor-key composition reflecting personal anxieties and a desire for individuation.
Poggy’s unaffected narratives about her life and personal truths are raw and strangely affecting.
The album is a tad rough around the edges at times but this does not diminish its innate charm.
Gary Studly, Deal, Kent.
Thursday 7th of December 2017.
All set for a good night at The Lighthouse, it was a pleasant surprise to find a seat going spare at what was, a packed-out night, and suddenly I found myself making notes. What grew out of them was the following review.
With a very different feel to Kotchin's one-man take on the modern world, yet equally enjoyable, our headline act for the evening was Poggy, showcasing new tracks and some from her debut album, Woman.
As a well-known and much-loved figure in this neck of the woods, this event was eagerly anticipated and as expected garnered a warm, full-on, audience reaction throughout.
Self-effacing and obviously grateful for all the support she has received thus far, Poggy has a open and charming presence and set her stall out perfectly tonight with the premier showing of the video for her track, Only Through A Song. Beckoning us inside with its hypnotic visuals of coast, countryside, windswept grasses, and beautiful horses, Poggy's vocals seamlessly threaded throughout and the track's instrumental breaks created a great sense of emotive breath and for myself, a deep, pleasant calm.
Though tracks like Steal Away, with its hooky vocals and almost Soweto reminiscent picking, show that Poggy is more than capable of holding her own on stage, the evening was further enhanced with the addition of other highly capable musicians joining her for some numbers. Being relatively new to the Deal music scene, my apologies for any inaccuracies here in the name department, but with James Hatton on drums; Natasha Greenham & Hetty Pound on vocals and violin; Ben Dugard & Mr A.N.Other/ 'Car Wash' T-Shirt Man (apologies!) on bass and bongos, the album was showcased in all its rich variety and the musicianship top-notch.
There are too many tracks of interest and quality to name here, but particular highlights of mine were Heart Full of Gold, with its guitar touching on the tenderness of Lennon & McCartney's Blackbird ; the filmic yet intimate, Tell Mother; the disarming openness on being a member of a large, interesting family laced inside the lyrics of 1 out of 6 (perfectly ended by a Poggy giggle); and the spot-on bongo / drum combination supporting the buoyant, I'll Be True. And to top it all off, riffing alongside vocals not a million miles away from Kirsty MacColl, Tracy Thorn or The Unthanks (no small thing!), there were engaging asides and fun clearly present on stage, with Poggy comfortably at home, lovingly but humbly delivering her heart-felt material.
As the above should hint, I cannot wrap things up without a mention as to how refreshing Poggy's unaccompanied vocals are - feeling both innocent but also having a quality of knowledge that comes through living life and loving music. When floated over James' shimmering drums and combined with the united backing vocal gifts of Hetty and Natasha, the impact of Poggy's delivery on a track like Tell The World is quite simply nourishing ie it sounds as true as traditional/heritage music should be, yet has a 'good- head -place' vibe and I felt better from having been immersed in it.
A launch or showcase can be a funny thing, in that everyone who's anyone descends to take part but despite all the best wishes, no-one quite knows how well it's going to go. But what was evident tonight is that there was a wealth of writing and performing talent on stage and a lot, lot of love in the house for Poggy, Only Through A Song and Woman. The mark was hit and then some, and it was a pleasure to be present.
I don't know what Poggy plans to do next, but I will say this : I can very easily imagine her being introduced to TV-Land on Later with Jools; playing to the crowds at Radio 2's Folk Awards; or doing a cosy, ringing, stripped-down set on Radio 4's Loose Ends, with Clive Anderson doubtlessly enthusing away! Go for it, Poggy - I'm sure you can handle it!