Hot Toast Volume One
'I Will Return, I Promise'
Short, sweet, but anonymous
A charming yet strangely forgettable release from Geordie songstress Beth Jeans Houghton.
From Newcastle comes Hot Toast Volume One, a DIY collection of folk songs by Beth Jeans Houghton and her backing band The Hooves of Destiny. Despite being a relatively new addition to the music scene, the young songstress is already starting to make a name for herself. She's supported St. Vincent and Bon Iver, appeared on stage with Devendra Banhart, and has been hailed as one to watch by The Guardian.
Houghton's second EP is a short and sweet release with only one of the five tracks breaking the three-minute mark. The album kicks off with "I Will Return, I Promise", an up-beat bluegrass number with elegant banjo backing and serene vocal harmonies that could easily have been penned by the Fleet Foxes. She stays in the same Southern mood with Hot Toast, a country tune in the Carter Family tradition with a splash of soulful gospel humming at the end. The lyrics build up under the sorrowful-yet-practical wisdoms that are so often shared in old country songs: "The best thing to do when love's unkind is to leave these shores and roam".
The brisk barn-dance vibes wane as Houghton moves into more straightforward singer-songwriter territory. The plinky plonky piano of Cruel Francis along with Anne Cramb's hoarse strings and soft guitar-plucking make her a close musical relative of the beany-clad Boltonite Badly Drawn Boy.
Hot Toast Volume One is a charming release, yet there's something strangely anonymous about Houghton. The kookiness behind a bio revealing that the singer was "born in Transylvania to a pack of albino wolves who raised her on chewing tobacco" hasn't quite reached the performance. Compared to similar artists such as Feist and Laura Marling, Houghton's personality is difficult to grasp in-between galloping drums and blocks of vocal harmonies. Which is the main flaw of Hot Toast... Once finished listening to the tracks, I've pretty much forgotten all about them.