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ALBUM REVIEW: DELTA MAID – KATIE

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Liverpool’s Katie Foulkes, aka Delta Maid, was tipped for stardom ten years ago, then suddenly disappeared from the spotlight. Her long-awaited second album is a superb statement of healing and self-discovery **** 4 stars

(Photo credit: Rosie Woods)

A modern-day Scouse songbird who sings with the authority and veracity of someone from the golden age of the Delta blues? If Delta Maid sounded like an intriguing proposition on paper, she was even more beguiling in reality. Ten years ago, Wavertree-born Katie Foulkes, aka Delta Maid, was widely tipped as one of Britain’s hottest music prospects. She received stellar reviews for her 2011 debut LP, Outside Looking In – an album of luscious, radio-friendly country, blues and Americana – and seemed poised to replicate her success across the pond when she relocated to Nashville. One of her songs, ‘Tornado’, even topped the American country charts and earned her a prestigious BMI Award.

      Then, suddenly, Foulkes seemed to vanish from the spotlight. Her social media accounts, for several years, were curiously devoid of news updates. Speculation was rife amongst her fanbase. Had Foulkes – heaven forbid – given up on songwriting and walked away from the music industry?

      Thankfully, she hasn’t abandoned music – however, her relationship with the industry surrounding it has certainly been put under immense strain. During her hiatus from the spotlight, Foulkes has clearly been doing a great deal of soul-searching. In a recent press statement, she’s spoken about being disillusioned with the industry, feeling both restricted and suffocated by the demands placed upon her. Previously signed to the major label Geffen Records, she admits to feeling a certain “bitterness” at the way she was treated by the music business. 

      Arriving almost a decade after her debut LP, Foulkes’ long-awaited second album is the sound of an artist reconnecting with her muse – with stunning results. Having spent the past five years out of the spotlight, writing songs for her own pleasure and enjoyment, Katie Foulkes has now returned as an independent artist and one in firm control of her own narrative.

     “Keeping these demons at bay is hurting my mental health,” she sings on ‘Alchemy’, a song which firmly establishes the album’s compelling blend of catharsis and soulful incantation. Sonically, it’s a much less polished record than her debut, leaning on raw, bluesy guitar and stark, yet imaginative arrangements to showcase her astute observations and melancholic melodies. Alongside musician and producer Idan Altman, she’s crafted a record of startling sunlit clarity – if her debut album positioned her as a potential Queen of Nashville, then Katie falls more naturally into Queen of Soul category.  

     On the evidence of these ten air-tight tracks, she’s a viable fit for that crown. Standout track ‘You Better Run’, built around a simple, bluesy guitar motif and insistent, layered vocals, builds from quiet, tender verses into a peach of a chorus. Elsewhere, she strides with purpose on the haunting, minor key growl of ‘Glow’, singing “I am gonna come out stronger, stronger than you’ll ever know”. ‘The Tide’ finds her country soul cadences imbued with a heavenly, almost gospel-like fervour. And, best of all, on ‘Don’t Fall Apart’, she channels Al Green and Otis Redding on a heart-breaking jazzy lament about facing your regrets.

     The mood of intimacy is further amplified by Foulkes’ voice, weaving its way through these ten tracks with quiet determination. When she first emerged a decade ago, Foulkes seemed almost straightjacketed by that ubiquitous media description, ‘the Liverpudlian Loretta Lynn’. Here, however, she has clearly found her natural register – her voice soft, supple and luxuriating in the pursuit of self-knowledge. Whilst her debut LP wore its Americana influences a little too heavily at times, Katie strives for – and achieves – the timeless and transcendent.            

     Katie Foulkes, through intense healing and self-discovery, has produced an album which plays to her natural strengths – a work which, if there’s any justice in this world, will relaunch her career and give her the wider spotlight she so deserves. She may have left the music industry on fraught, acrimonious terms; but Delta Maid, at long last, is returning to it stronger, more resolute than ever before.

Katie is available on all major streaming platforms from Friday June 5. More info at – deltamaid.com

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