Let It Rain
The track, Let It Rain, is available via:
4th May, 2018
THERE is quite a lot to cover…
in this review, so I better get down to things. Before I look at Clare Bowen and her latest track; I wanted to speak about a few things. I will talk about Country music and its variation (including a bit about Bob Harris); female icons and artists who stand in the mind; a start in music that deserves time on the screen; a mix of acting and music (and how that can aid songwriting); activism and artists who take a greater stand outside of what they record; a little bit about Nashville and why that made an impact on Bowen – I will end by speaking about her career and where she might head. One has a lot to unpack with regards Clare Bowen and what she is all about. I am a fan of Country music and know it gets a bad rap with many people. There have been accusations the genre is not as diverse as it should be, in terms of race, but the music itself is among the most compelling out there. Whether pure Country or a mixture Pop and Country – listen to artists like Kacey Musgraves... – and you have plenty of diversity and colour. I grew up around artists like Hank Williams, Dolly Parton and Glen Campbell and listened to what they were offering the world. I have not dipped into modern Country too much but I do know there is a U.S./U.K. divide. Here, it is a growing genre but we do not have the stars and artists like Florida Georgia Line, Carrie Underworld and Jess Williamson. There is a hot breed coming through and you have cities like Nashville, which I will come to later, that continues to produce these wonders. In Britain, we do not really have the same degree of artists but there is a bubbling Country scene emerging – we do not have the scenery and cities that are set up to accommodate the genre.
I listen to Clare Bowen and she seems to define new Country music: you can hear the roots showing but there is a blend of other genres and sounds working away. We get it into our heads that Country is all about a certain wardrobe – the big hats, boots and spurs – and the songs are going to be all twanging guitars and something a little cheesy. There is Country music like that but most of it, especially now, is a lot more engaging, appealing and nuanced than you’d realise. Bowen is an artist who has been on the scene for a little bit and has grown in stature. Her voice has that mix of lustrous and vivacious; there are so many different emotions working away and you feel a real connection with her. The music is indelible and incredible and, with an album due at the end of this month, Bowen will gain a lot of new requests and interests. I will nod to the album in the conclusion but I wanted to highlight Bowen as someone who is keeping the bones of Country alive but is modernising its sounds and reaching new audiences. One of the reasons why Country music is getting acclaim and recognition in this country is because of Bob Harris. He is a fan of Clare Bowen and has featured her music on his Bob Harris Country show – lauding her talents and recommending we keep a watch out for her. Harris is a champion of the best new Country music from the U.S. and U.K. I have listened to his show and his warmth and affection – that legendary voice makes everything sound essential! – and get to witness so many eclectic Country artists speak and perform. It is illuminating hearing them discuss their career and background and what goes into their music. I discovered Clare Bowen through that show and, after that, was compelled to find out more. Harris’ patronage of the genre and bringing it to the masses means, in the U.K., there is a lot more visibility and attention given to Country.
Every time I review a female artist; I get a chance to talk about the scene and how female artists are being perceived. I have just witnessed a documentary, last night, on Aretha Franklin and, whilst I have mentioned her a lot the past few days, it is worth bringing her back to the fold. One reason why that documentary fascinated me – it was a reaction to her death and a narrative of her story – is because of the footage of Franklin performing and the goosebumps elicited; the way she campaigned for civil rights development and gave a voice to so many who didn’t have one. At a time when we all need some guidance and answers; Franklin’s voice and soul – in many ways and definitions – will be a comforting and inspiring tool. She gave a greater voice for female artists and broke down a lot of barriers. Now, in an industry that is open and competitive as ever; I wonder whether people are spending time around an artist and truly getting to know them. I am spotlighting Clare Bowen because she is one of those strong female artists who has that multifaceted appeal and dynamic. She is an activist and has a kind soul; a story and progression into music that compels imagery and imagination; sounds that are exciting yet deep; a rise and popularity that can only see her ascend to the mainstream unchallenged – so many different reasons why she will go a very long way. We have a lot of songwriters out there who are interesting and strong but there are few genuine artists who you want to cherish and follow. Bowen is a performer whose live shows have stunned audiences and gained praise; her recorded music sits in the heart and stays in the mind for a long time after you hear it. She is very striking to behold and has a sense of style and confidence that fuses with unique songwriting and a staggering voice.
Maybe she will not reach the heights of Aretha Franklin but I can recognise a true star that has a lot to say and can influence a lot of people. There is something about the female voice and the music being made that ensures and resonates harder and longer than that of the men. Maybe it is a natural compassion or a different lyrical approach – a more stirring and distinguished music that is not getting the passion and kudos it warrants. Clare Bowen is a standout among a busy Country scene because she has a sound that is not easy to define and categorise. Inspired by artists like Loretta Lynn and Johnny Cash; the young songwriter grew up around icons and splices Country and Folk together. The Australian-born, American-based artist releases her much-anticipated debut album on 31st August and the single, Let It Rain, was debuted on Bob Harris’ show to incredible reaction – so many people getting in touch and saying how much it touched them! You can always tell when an artist is primed for great things and the fact they have that natural and easy ability. Bowen is born to an artist and seems to channel her every being and iota of emotion into every sinew and note. That is what struck me about the Aretha Franklin documentary: she was described, by commentators and fans, as someone who brought the church and religion into every single song. The slightly shy woman became an icon and powerhouse when she came to the stage. I get a feeling that Bowen has a similar attachment to music and its meaning. It is not merely a career to her but a calling and addiction she has been working towards for her entire life. Listen to her music and watch her play and you can sense that desire for connection with the audience and the need to be heard. You, as a result, shiver and sigh at the music and all the power it holds.
PHOTO CREDIT: @clarembee
The story of Clare Bowen is one that is destined for some sort of T.V. drama. She was struck by music and Country when listening to the Grand Old Opry on the wireless in her grandad’s kitchen. Maybe it was that show that did it but there was a Country lilt to the artist and a curious soul who felt an affinity with a certain voice and type of music. Clearly, right there, she had that love of music that possessed a beguiling beauty and human touch. Her voice coach noted that Country intonation and encouraged it to come through. It was a little while before she worked with heavyweights such as T Bone Burnett and Buddy Miller; a tour of the U.S. and a big role on the American T.V. show, Nashville. I will look at her acting career in a bit but it is those early experiences and the love she felt for older Country stars that drew her to Nashville and what it stands for. The city is a community that recognises its history and is, quite rightly, considered to be the centre of music in the country. It is ironic, talking about Aretha Franklin, that I speak of Nashville and its starring role. Detroit, where Franklin hailed from, was always seen as the epicentre of musical innovation – Motown and Soul through to Garage-Rock that arrived in the 1980s and 1990s. That crown shifted and now, in 2018, one needs to head to Nashville if they want to discover all the best music in the U.S. Residents of New York and Los Angeles might argue against that assumption but Bowen felt a sense of belonging there and has negotiated scary and hard times to get where she is. It has been an interesting life with ups and downs that, according to Bowen, she would not change for the world. It seems like she has found her home and everything is slotting into place. Looking at the way she has come into music and blossomed compels visions of a big T.V. show and biopic.
I am always fascinated by artists who come from quite ordinary and humble backgrounds and take big leaps. It is brave and scary following your heart and taking on a challenge that could go wrong. Bowen, since those early experiences to Country, has evolved and grown into a true star. It is the acting work and what that has done for her acting career that gets to me. Bowen gained acclaimed for her role in the controversial Australian film, The Combination, and as the lead role in the Sydney Theatre Company’s musical production of Spring Awakening. Around this time, Bowen took the advice of Cate Blanchett and bought a one-way ticket to L.A. In 2012, with a few roles under her belt, she arrived in America and took a bus – not right away – to audition for Nashville. Bowen won the role of a poet-turned-songwriter and found her calling. Bowen struggled with cancer at the age of four and it is a disease that impacted her hugely and the role in Nashville, in many ways, hit home – the relief and delight at getting a role in that show must have been a memorable and evocative time for the songwriter. Playing Scarlet O’Connor in the show, she was required to sing hundreds of songs and play countless instruments. Bowen overcame her fear of microphones and bloomed as a performer. She was once asked if she could play the banjo – ‘probably’ was her response – and drew from her childhood when writing. There are musicians who act as well and I always find they are disciplines that weave inside one another. In the case of Clare Bowen; the once-shy artist gained that role and strengthened as an artist. She has played in the U.K. with her Nashville co-stars and sold out the Royal Albert Hall wowed crowds up and down the country. Bowen has been in Nashville for six years and has stepped away from the role to record her album and ensure it is as good as possible.
I have reviewed artists who combine performing with acting and feel you can learn so much from acting and bring it to music. Bowen learned disciplines and performance skills she has brought to the live setting and grown in confidence. The fact she has performed hundreds of songs has brought so many emotions from her voice and solidified her foundations. That instrumental talent means the music Bowen plays has more variety and depth than most. She can bring different elements to what she plays and that voice has benefited from acting. The two are natural companions and she can also bring experiences on the road to her acting work. Bowen plays shows between shoots and tours the U.S. with her fellow Nashville actor Charles Esten and her singer-songwriter husband, Brandon Robert Young. I feel the reason Nashville has impacted Bowen’s music is because of the sense of characterisation and narrative. Bowen brings that drama, story and characterisation into the music. She can not only write about herself in new ways – having grown since appearing on the screen and blossoming – but write about other people and characters. The protagonist, whether personal or fictional, has more body, life and meaning. She has learned a lot from her acting roles and sprinkles those skills and memories into the music. In turn, she can bring all the touring experience back to acting and take on new roles. I wonder whether Bowen will embark on more acting and balance the two careers. It is a busy time for her so I can forgive the need to concentrate on music but it seems she will do both. The fact she came to America to pursue acting means one will see her on the screen for a while to come. She was living in rural Australia a year before she came to America and those worlds clashing must have been startling.
To transition from the detached and quiet lifestyle in Australia and arrived somewhere bustling, busy and moving must have taken its toll. It seems Bowen has embraced the possibilities and opportunities of the U.S. and seems like she has found her place in life. Bowen’s activism and kind spirit is another facet that intrigues me. She is an advocate for kindness and better understanding in the world. Bowen has said she cannot solve all problems and change the world alone but she is determined to take a stand and bring love to the people. That desire for kindness is an impressive and fantastic plaudit that stands her out from her peers. In 2015, she cut her hair and adopted a new image to encourage people to look past the physical. Although Bowen is a stunningly beautiful woman; she wants people to focus on the music and what comes from inside. That act of cutting her hair went viral and gained an enormous reaction. Bowen was startled by it and could hardly get down from the ceiling – an unexpected reaction and moment that has given her so much joy and fresh impetus. There is so much to love about Clare Bowen and so many interesting shades. She is that actor who has enjoyed a varied and successful career. Bowen has performed countless times and toured around the world; she is an activist and natural star that wants to make the world better – an icon that we can hold up at a time when so many artists are bland and ordinary. I am looking forward to seeing the reaction to Bowen’s debut album (it is self-titled) and how it fares. I am sure critics will love it and there will be a lot of interest from fans here – I expect Bob Harris to play a couple of cuts. It is a great time for Bowen and seems like everything in life has been leading to this moment.
Let It Rain starts with a clap of percussive thunder and a definite sense of meaning. The percussion rolls and claps whilst the heroine comes in with a voice that is sweet and alarming. You have this alluring, sensual and incredibly crystal voice that juxtaposes the hardness of the background and environment. The composition acts as weather and that sense of wet and windy. Our heroine is going to let it rain and see the tears fall down her face. I wonder, at once, what has compelled the emotion and where the story has stemmed from. There is heartache and pain in her heart and it seems like something has impacted her soul. Maybe a relationship has ended and there have been some cross words but the state of the world, and all the pains and horrors we see, have got to her. Look at the song’s video and you’ll see the heroine in the outdoors, curled up and fighting the tears. She heads to a bar and solemnly orders a drink and is letting the emotion wash over her. The percussion gets calmer and employs great rhythm; it accompanies her as she assesses the scenes and tries to piece things together. You get beautiful Country twangs but there is that core of Folk that balances a stern and determined spirit with something more emotive and open. Bowen is going to let those tears come and not fight things. It seems like life in general has poured too much on her lap. She knows things are in a bad place but holding it all back and bottling things is not healthy. The heroine cradles a drink (in the video) and wonders where she heads now. At this stage, I have already drunk in so much and projected my own impressions. I get the feeling there is a romance in her heart; one that has ended and those memories keep coming back to haunt her.
PHOTO CREDIT: TGMoments
One gets philosophy and pragmatic determination from Bowen. She knows you cannot experience highs without the lows; the levee needs to break and Bowen has got to a point where the pains and bad times have made her a stronger person. Rather than let them get her down, we see someone who is moving on and determined to embrace fresh horizons. Even though the heroine is strong and moving on; there is that pain working away and eliciting some serious revelation. It is rare to see a songwriter so open and positive given what she is facing. The initial percussive storm has mutated into a different beast that mixes with guitars and tenderly supports the heroine. It is firm and strident sound but one that holds a lot of compassion and love. Bowen, in the song’s video, is watching people play poker and is in the bar. She is emotional but watching people express their own emotions and pains. Compassion and positivity come out of everything. In the video, we see the bar’s tip jar is full of dollars – a woman who was playing poker has given her winnings and that, in turn, brings joy to the proprietors. It seems like that moment of light and kindness can make everything different. We see people comfort one another and the more downbeat and teary mood changes to something positive. Bowen takes from those around her and is keen to transition from the heartache and find a more peaceful plateau. Our heroine is not afraid anymore and is letting the rain and water wash over her. She will embrace it and knows there is light and hope ahead of her. Let It Rain is a mandate that projects strength against the tide. It is for anyone who has felt the pressure of life build up and not been able to see a way through. Many of us can relate to what is being sung and where Bowen is coming from. The heroine’s immaculate and emotive performance ensures the song gets into the mind and compels you to keep coming back. There is a distinct Country sound to the song but more of the modern breed – not the stereotyped view we have of Country and what it incorporates. There are few songwriters as strong and engaging as Clare Bowen. She seems to speak for everyone out there and can make the listener feel more positive and hopeful with songs like Let It Rain. If the track is an indication of what the album, Clare Bowen, will sound like; I know there will be a lot of new ears and fans heading her way.
PHOTO CREDIT: Maarten De Boer for Hulu
From a challenging childhood to embarking on a trip to America and settling into a role in Nashville; it has been a whirlwind of a life that is getting better and better. The Australian-born artist is bringing Country music to new people and making it more accessible. That sounds rather dismissive but there are some who are uninitiated and ignorant to the pleasures of the genre. Bowen mixes Folk into the palette and has gained a lot of skills as an actor. That physicality, discipline and sense of fiction add a beautiful aspect to her music. The fact Bowen has grown in confidence and come out of herself means the writing is a lot more emotive and bold; her stories are much more vivid and deep. You get involved with the music and not only listen to the words and picture what is happening but think of Clare Bowen and how her life has changed. I know there are a lot of great artists out there but Bowen has managed to achieve so much and create such heat – someone who stands aside and is much more fascinating than most of the artists out there. From battling cancer and moving from Australia to being a big T.V. star and launching her eponymous debut; it has been a time of strength, realisation and success. Bowen brings love to people and wants us all to be kinder. She looks out at the world and knows we have a long way to go before there is harmony and grace. Her music, personality and words are helping make things better and getting into many hearts. I am a new convert and am stunned by everything I learn about her. Make sure you get Bowen’s album when it arrives and follow her career. Nashville has given so much to her and seems like somewhere she is drawn to. Maybe those memories of listening to her granddad’s wireless and experiencing those stars booming out – it sparked something inside her and compelled her to follow in their footsteps. Already a big name in the U.S.; I know she has a huge fanbase in the U.K. and will be back here soon. Follow her social media for all the dates but I know Bowen is playing back in Australia and will be there very soon – getting back home and bringing her fresh material to the people. If you have not experienced Clare Bowen and all she holds, make sure you check her out and fall in love…
WITH a spectacular human.
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