ROSïE Henshaw has a colourful backstory having being educated at a boarding school in the Himalayas, then moving on to the contrasting lifestyles of Hong Kong and Australia, where she now resides. Presented as a chanteuse, songwriter, multi-instrumentalist and free spirit, Henshaw sets her sights on an eclectic vision to match the cosmopolitan upbringing too and for her first album she is backed by an equally versatile and talented band made of members beginning with the letter “B”, hence the rather catchy “Bees” moniker.
The Sun’ gives an early indicator of Henshaw and co’s jazz and psychedelic soul backgrounds. For an opening track it’s a brave start since the song eschews the most obvious verse/chorus structure with Henshaw keen to demonstrate this is very much a band effort. Elsewhere there’s a plethora of styles and instruments to enjoy from rapping (for the loose-limbed, freeform ‘You’ and ‘Jasmine’) to sitar-led numbers (‘I’ll Sail My Ship’) to some lovely soulful harmonies for ‘Let There Be Love’ and a bonus song about avian faecal matter (‘Birdshite’). So something for everyone really.
Occasionally, as on the wayward ‘Bubble’ or the overlong ‘In The Scheme Of Things’, the free spirited nature of the music threatens to undermine the songwriting but the band and their laidback approach are still a pleasure to listen to. However, setting aside the ambition and experimental nature of the record, Henshaw and co. are actually at their best when performing music which falls into the category of “pop”. ‘Sunshine Soldier’ is simply a joy from start to finish from the languid summery guitar refrain to the inventive keyboards and Henshaw’s pure gold vocal. Then there is ‘Music’ which soars from its liquid funk foundations to its vibrant arrangement; it’s like hearing an Australian version of TLC’s ‘Waterfalls’ and it’s every bit as infectious.
If ROSïE and her band can control their occasional waywardness, we can expect a brilliant concise album from them. So this album isn’t quite as good as it could have been but when ROSïE and her busy bees are good they are so good, it’s hard not to listen to these songs without raising a smile and feeling like it’s Summer even during the coldest Winter..
Stevie Wonder, Minnie Riperton, TLC, My Foolish Heart