Risa Hall – Gold Dust EP
Reviewed by: Malcolm Carter (Pennyblack Music)
Date: 29/12/2019

The latest release from Risa Hall was a little of a disappointment before the disc was actually in the player; from past experience five songs from a talent as huge as Risa Hall is simply not enough. Oh well, there’s always the repeat button.

The disappointment was short lived, for a while at least. The opening and title track is 2.20 and I’ve never had two minutes of my life pass so fast. It seemed that as soon as the song started it was over. It’s an extremely catchy number, Risa’s vocals are as strong as ever and the nagging guitar line is impossible to shake out of your head after just one play. Nope, just had to hit replay and again as it’s over far too soon. Although the lyrics might be interpreted differently the sound is totally uplifting and despite its catchiness it never wears thin. After a dozen plays before moving on to the other four songs, I can confirm that.

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One aspect of Risa’s past work, which we’ve rated very highly, has always been the diversity in her music. It’s been difficult to neatly slot Risa Hall into any one specific genre. She’s touched on rock, musicals, pop, blues country, you name it and there’s elements of most genres seeping through in her work. But it’s worked. Her albums, or EPs, have never flowed uneasily despite no two tracks ever coming from the same place. The five tracks on ‘Gold Dust’, or four of them at least seem to have come from a similar vision though. This might partly be due to two songs, that hook-filled title song and ‘A Little Hope’, being co-writes with James Rea and another song, ‘Alone Without You’ a co-write with Wayne McDonald. Certainly the songs which Rea had a hand in writing have brought out Risa’s pop leanings more than we’ve heard before. This is no bad thing; in fact so instantly addictive are these two songs which open this collection one has the feeling that they are going to introduce Risa Hall to the much wider audience that she rightly deserves.

‘Missing You’ is one of the two solo Risa compositions. The tempo is slowed down from the opening duo of songs. The addition of Victoria Martin’s flute lends a completely different feel to the song than the preceding songs. As usual Risa’s vocal performance is exceptional while the song still displays the poppier side of Risa’s work.

‘Alone Without You Now’ also features Victoria’s flute but those pop leanings are less evident. There’s a bluesy feel to the song. Guitar licks courtesy of Kevin Farrell and backing vocals from Jessica Shaw and Bonny Dinsdale also give the song a different direction. Risa’s fondness for musicals seeps through into it occasionally, and it’s probably the most adventurous cut on this five-tracker. The flute evens adds a 60’s/70’s feel to the song.

The closing song, ‘Forever Mine’, is a touching ballad. Displaying Risa at her most soulful vocally the musical backing (especially the guitar and the flute again, which if it wasn’t for Risa’s vocals would almost steal the song every time it makes an appearance) creates the perfect atmosphere for this song about loss and longing.

Despite all Risa Hall’s recorded work being exceptional this latest mini-album/ EP, call it what you will, ranks among the best she has so far released. ‘Gold Dust’ confirms once more that Risa Hall is in a class of her own.

Malcolm Carter – Pennyblack Music

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