Kaz Hawkins – Feelin’ Good
‘Feelin’ Good’ is the second album from Northern Ireland powerhouse Kaz Hawkins and follows on from 2014’s debut release ‘Get Ready’.
Opening with the gospel-inspired a capella ‘Pray’, the record launches the listener into a good foot stomping revival flavoured tribute to the blues. With only bass drum and hand clapping this is one attention-grabbing opener and it sets the tone for a very positive record.
‘It Ain’t You’ follows and showcases a rockier side to Kaz with its edgy and melodic guitar work and bass drum intro. With the big harmonies in the chorus, this is a big song that screams for radio play.
‘Don’t Make Mama Cry’ has a jazz-influenced bass intro which is eerily like Van Morrison’s ‘Moondance’ with a smattering of reggae thrown in. We’ve heard Kaz perform this song on stage a few times and it is nice to see how it has progressed and developed into this final recorded version.
‘This Is Me’ slows things down with its sombre piano introduction and Kaz’s vocal. However, that soon changes as the song takes us headlong into big ballad territory. Special note to Deanne Jones whose backing vocals are especially prominent in the mix and provide an excellent foil to Kaz’s vocal. When Nick McConkey’s guitar solo comes in midway we can’t help thinking of Guns and Roses ‘November Rain’, but whereas that was an absolute mess inspired by ego, here Kaz and band get the mix and tone just right to create an anthemic sounding power baled that will no doubt become a rallying cry for her many fans.
Kaz has surrounded herself by some fine musicians on this record. With the aforementioned Deanne Jones on backing vocals and Nick McConkey on guitar, she’s also joined by Peter Uhrin on drums and Jan Uhrin on bass guitar. The production on the record is crystal clear and unlike some albums that have been over produced the mix here gives the record a live studio sound and really does credit to the band who have become a tight unit on the road and in the studio. We first listened to the record on headphones and the mix really is superb. Full credit to David Jamison from Comber’s Millstone Studios for doing such a good job.
‘Belfast Town’ is another light radio friendly melodic rocker that pays tribute to Northern Ireland’s capital city.
The first of two covers on the record is ‘Feelin’ Good’. Written by Anthony Newley and Leslie Bricusse this is a big and brave decision by Kaz to cover such a well-known and much-loved classic, but she makes the song her own and it allows the listener an insight into an artist whose own confidence and strength is growing as a performer.
The second cover is the last track on the record and it is simply jaw dropping. Willie Dixon’s ‘I Just Wanna Make Love To You’ is known throughout the world, but very few will have heard it recorded this way. It’s a rocker from start to finish. The guitars sound very much like Brian May’s early Queen work and as well as ending the record we can see this being the last song of the night as it really is a show stopping version and this will raise the roof of any venue it is performed it.
Rounding out the record the funky ‘Don’t Run Away’ has shades of Cream’s ‘White Room’ with its descending chord structure. ‘Because You Love Me’ has a blistering guitar solo that raises neck hair and there’s a hint of Bowie’s ‘Five Years’ in ‘Soul Superstar’.
‘Feelin’ Good’ is a record that shows an artist who’s developed as a strong songwriter, musician, and singer. It also gives space to the very talented performers who recorded it and we’ve been very impressed in particular by Nick McConkey’s guitar work and Peter Uhrin’s drums. Both shine all over the record be they rocking out or playing subtly on the quieter songs. Full marks to Kaz and band on this one. They’ve really delivered a classic this time.