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Haroula Rose – Catch The Light

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Haroula Rose

Catch The Light

Independent

2022

A multi-hyphenate, Chicagoan Haroula Rose is a director, producer, writer, actress and musician; her 2019 debut feature, Once Upon A River, is the story of a young woman coming of age against the backdrop of the injustices of her family and country, earning critical acclaim and international awards while her songs have featured in such shows as How I Met Your Mother and American Horror Story.

Catch The Light is her third album and seems likely to add to the trophies on the bookcase, a contemplative collection of songs framed largely by acoustic guitar and piano. It opens with the serene acoustic picked and strings caressed title track, a reference to her filmmaker’s craft, which she describes as how we’re all enraptured by darkness and light. Continuing, the warm and intimately sung Happenstance, a co-write with Benjamin Lazar Davis and Will Graefe from Okkervil River, with its ticking rhythm and pizzicato strings, is about the many memories to celebrate life (“all I have left are photos that begin to fade/1001 1002 so many moments I still celebrate”).

An earlier single, Spades is sparse and contemplative, with the guitar complemented by minimal piano notes, synths and muted percussion, a reflection of an old romance that didn’t work out but which still holds warm memories (“You can come over any time you like/You can come over day or night/I wanna go anywhere/I wanna do anything/I can be anyone/Or no one/With you”).

 It’s followed by the first of two covers. Her stripped-back, piano-led introspective take on Chris Stapleton’s You Should Probably Leave digs into the ache veining the lyrics.

Time’s Fool features Molly Parden on vocals, Omar Velasco on guitar arpeggios and Greg Leisz on pedal steel. The song takes its cue from Shakespeare’s Sonnet 116, Let me not to the marriage of true minds, a UK songwriting workshop co-write with Geoff Martyn inspired by a call to a friend going through heartbreak as she sings, “I guess I’m not an open book;/I make it hard for a second look/Let’s go slow, see it unfold; My peace of mind needs some time… So don’t seek doubt, in the way I feel;/I want you close, I want you near me”.

Featuring Ry Cooder’s son Joachim on cajón, the second cover is Luchín, written by Víctor Jara, the Chilean artist and activist who was assassinated in 1973. Rose states that he was also an important guide on this album. The song is about a child living in a cruel world who finds solace in his inner life, a theme all too resonant with events when the album was coming together in 2020. Simply fingerpicked with a Nick Drake feel, cello  and piano notes wrapped up in  a dreamily lazing haze Summer Storm and yet more memories (“We stood in a field of golden grass/And watched the clouds move, their shadows pass/You said don’t worry, I will keep us warm”)

A second co-write with Davis and Graefe, The Nature Of Things, relates to pandemic lessons learnt, that running around and keeping busy (“…watched the road, looked for signs/Looked so hard how could I know“) is all well and good, but ultimately gets us nowhere (“All my life I’m going somewhere/Is there a way to know once you’re there?”) and we need to appreciate that life is about the people close to us and not the things we accomplish. And so it ends with the fingerpicked ripples and resonant but underplayed piano notes and aching strings of Break My Own Heart, about not being wary of letting people in (“For a moment you’ll give in/Surrender and you’re living/Close enough to Heaven/Forever the beginning /Will you let someone love you? Are you going to let anybody in? Don’t be alarmed if I don’t need you/I’ll be fine I break my own heart every time”).

As with her filmmaking, Haroula Rose proves herself a highly skilled singer-songwriter talent with an album that mesmerisingly captures the light of the human heart and spirit like the sun reflecting off crystal waters.

Catch the Light is out on 17 June 2022

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