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Dot Allison Heart-Shaped Scars


Dot Allison HEART-SHAPED SCARS. SA Recordings


It was back in 1999 that I first heard Allison’s music and was impressed enough to secure a live performance and interview in Leeds. It’s hard to believe that it’s been 22 years since I had the pleasure and privilege of seeing Allison, and even harder to believe that it’s been 12 years since she released an album. Thankfully, the wait is over and with the creation of an album is as good albeit with less broad brush-strokes of 1999’s AFTERGLOW.

In fact HEART-SHAPED SCAR is very different in that it treads a straighter, simpler folk path while being more intimate and personnel. The opening track ‘Long Exposure’ represents a beautiful, vivid and emotive precursor to the record’s underlying theme of love and loss. The opening simple folk instrumental chords herald in Allison’s gentle, young voice that sounds more fragile than before. The string arrangement adds poignancy to the song’s message: “I didn’t think you’d lie to me/My love for you it was pure/Like glitter on snow/I cannot quite believe the deceit/What a fool love brings…Allison’s wandering tones combined with the heavenly string arrangement, and strong melody combine to make listening to the song the most moving experience. But it’s just the beginning…

‘The Haunted’ is introduced by string and piano notes while Allison’s vocal takes to a lower, darker octave. The melody is even stronger while the multi-layered vocals take it into very special musical territory. ‘Constellations’ is next and announces its arrival with extended piano notes that continue to provide a steady rhythm. Allison’s pure voice covers a wider scale while the song travels a little further upbeat. That steady piano backdrop is a touch of haunting genius. Zoe Bestel’s dreamlike ‘Can You Hear Nature Sing?’ is arguably Allison’s most expressive performance as she touches on the relationship of nature to life and love: “Autumn’s touch, harvest worn/Winter’s grasp beckons us on/Hallowed seed, occasional thorn/Unpick the wire around our dawn. Can you hear nature sing/A myriad of melodies?/Can you hear through her tears/A myriad of melodies?/Can you hear nature sing/Myriad of melodies?/Can you hear through her tears? Utterly beautiful.

Piano provides the only background to ‘Ghost Orchid’ until cello arrives to accompany another compelling, contemplative Allison vocal. Stark piano notes return with the brief bridge of ‘Entanglement’ followed by intimate and fragile tones of ‘Forever’s Not Much Time’ with plucked strings accompanying the most intimate vocal performance which travels the musical scale. ‘Cue The Tears’ encompasses strong pop sensibility while cello and piano back the most forthright vocal on the album. Melody and chorus are strong enough to justify a place on BBC playlists. ‘One Love’ is more stripped-down but in so doing is beautifully judged production-wise with Allison’s voice seeming to tumble down a gentle hill. The song has a lullaby vibe to it and is totally enchanting.

The vibe of ‘Love Died In Our Arms’ echoes the highly emotive subject matter, while possessing a more assertive rhythmic backdrop. Finally Allison’s voice dominates ‘Goodbye’ with a stunning solo sad violin as the primary instrumental backdrop. Vocally, it’s the most intimate interpretation here and my favourite performance on the record. It’s utterly beautiful and totally moving. It was Allison’s intention to take the listener on a journey and she has succeeded in transporting the listener in the most intimate and emotional way. While AFTERGLOW is still my favourite Allison record this comes mighty close and represents essential listening.


Album Tracks

1 Long Exposure 5:50
2 The Haunted 6:20
3 Constellations 4:32
4 Can You Hear Nature Sing? 4:18
5 Ghost Orchid 4:30
6 Entanglement 0:42
7 Forever’s Not Much Time 4:06
8 Cue The Tears 4:02
9 One Love 5:48
10 Love Died In Our Arms 4:46
11 Goodbye 5:23


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