Charlie Leavy is a young female singer-songwriter hailing from the north of England (though, in time-honoured English tradition, sings with a slight American twang), and has already accrued a sizeable fanbase through social media. Her thriving popularity is understandable as she writes well-crafted songs that vary in style, with a voice that is both distinctive and radio friendly, which is always a good combination. She could be compared to other female singer-songwriters, but perhaps currently Ed Sheeran is the best comparison, which she notes as an influence.
This EP ‘The Best Damn Ride’ is an excellent showcase for her songwriting abilities, backed up by some superb musicianship and production (Luke Haran at Prospect Studios). Opening song The Way Life Is gets things off to a strong start with a funky, crisp beat, subtle piano and wah-wah guitar setting the tone for a ‘state of the nation’ lyric depicting the increasing violence and bigotry in society. It works as simply a very catchy pop song but the serious message comes across with powerful lyrics like ‘…people won’t stop for a little while to look at things that could help us progress a mile, the clock is ticking on a timer, just watch the dial…’.
With the charts full of vacuous songs that rarely contain any depth, it is edifying to hear a song that addresses the social issues that affect our everyday lives, such as the disparity between rich and poor and our obsession with materialistic celebrity culture. Though you don’t often hear such lyrical concerns in the Top 40, it would be a great song for radio and a definite contender as lead single, which I presume it will be.
Next track Tongue Tied is a different beast altogether, a sweet acoustic ballad about the anxieties of telling someone how you feel about them. This songs displays a much more gentle, vulnerable side to Leavy’s songwriting, and again it is very well-crafted and sung. Every teenager will be able to relate to the lyrics of this, though the theme is very much universal and timeless. The vocal line has a very pretty, lilting melody that soon sticks in the mind.
Third song Summer’s Day Runaway is again very different in style, and perhaps the most modern sounding track here. With atmospheric synths and a hypnotic beat, the music has a dreamlike quality and Leavy weaves a haunting vocal melody over the top. You would still classify it as pop/rock but there is an undoubted dance/electronica influence here. The distinctiveness of her voice means this eclectic leap amongst genres works well, rather than sounding like several different artists, which can sometimes happen.
Falter Baby returns to the gentle acoustic style of Tongue Tied and is another song about relationship issues. The vocal performance is earthy and emotive and has some lovely harmonies towards the end. Running My Mouth continues the acoustic pop vein, lyrically similar to Tongue Tied in being about dealing with difficult emotions but musically busier, with a shuffling beat and some effective stop/start dynamics. While this track didn’t make that much impact on first hearing, it has a deceptively catchy chorus that really sticks in the mind upon repeated listens.
That is the last official track of the EP, but there are two live bonus tracks that are both acoustic. The first, Why Are You Waiting, brought to mind the singer-songwriter Lisa Loeb both in terms of the vocal sound and the open, confessional nature of the lyrics. The second bonus track Wearing Your Kiss shows some of the RnB/soul influences first heard on The Way Life Is, Leavy’s vocals quite raw and bluesy. It is impressive how she can sing both this kind of feisty song and also the more delicate ballads. These bonus tracks are just as good as the rest of the EP, and there is no ‘filler’ to be found.
Overall, this is a very accomplished and impressive set of songs that tick both the boxes of artistic integrity and commercial potential. In a musical climate where decent exposure can be increasingly hard to come by, both these qualities are necessary. With such strong material and pro-level production I would expect Charlie Leavy to make strong headway and perhaps even become a female Ed Sheeran in terms of global success in the coming future. I look forward to hearing her debut album.
Verdict: 9 out of 10