After a 5 year hiatus, the award-winning Beatrix Players are back with a brand new eight piece line up and an intriguing new concept album.
The band’s sophomore album ‘Living & Alive’ will be available digitally from 22nd Sep 2023 and, for fans of vinyl and cd, it can be pre-ordered now from Burning Shed with a limited edition of just 500 copies pressed on coloured vinyl.
Founding member, writer and vocalist, Amy Birks is joined on the album by her co-writers from the original Beatrix Players line-up, Helena Dove, and guitarist Tom Manning. Also joining this expanded group are doyen of progressive music, flautist John Hackett, guitarist Oliver Day (That Joe Payne, Yes Please), drummer Andrew Booker (Tim Bowness) and storied cellist Jane Fenton (LSO, LCO, RPO, Britten Ensemble etc). Pianist Matthew Lumb and bassist Kyle Welch complete the on-stage octet.
A trio incarnation of the band released the band’s debut album, ‘Magnified’ in March 2017 and they went on to appear as special guests on UK dates with artists such as Steve Harley, Carl Palmer and Big Big Train. In October 2017 they performed two songs at Prog Magazine’s star-studded annual awards event at London’s Globe Theatre and walked away with the best newcomer prize.
With that line-up on permanent hiatus Amy subsequently released two well received solo albums in 2020 and 2022 and picked up Best Female Vocalist award at the 2018 Prog Awards before recruiting a third iteration of Beatrix Players leading to the recording of this brand new album.
So that’s the story behind the creation of the album, let’s dig a bit deeper, shall we…
“Take time it’s your life, What a beautiful life it could be…”
Great music has the ability to stir emotions and create small oasis of calm and beautiful solitude and ever since I heard ‘Magnified’, I have been hooked on what Amy Birks (on her solo releases) and Beatrix Players can create. Beautiful, wistful and ethereal music that is passionate and emotive in equal measure and that is just intensified on this new release.
Birks says, “Living & Alive is an honest album, that explores how life isn’t just about living, but that it’s about having the courage to really be alive and own it. Simply put; you are your best you, and will only ever be second best if you’re trying to be something other than you…“
And Amy is right, there is a raw honesty to the music, a sparsity that is delicate and graceful to songs like Snowflakes, the charming track that opens the album much in the chamber-prog style of the debut album but this group of musicians, and Amy Birks in particular, have matured and have additional facets to their music and songwriting.
“There’s no such thing as an ordinary moment, There’s never nothing going on, There’s never such a day as clear as the day that’s too late, Too late and lacking of any conviction…”
Somebody Else’s Eyes is dominated by the haunting cello of Jane Fenton, painfully melancholy and alluring in its delivery. Oliver Day’s gorgeous playing adds a layer of sophistication to the music and Amy’s vocals are touching and plaintive. This is music that just bleeds emotion in every word and every note. There’s an insistent, almost off-kilter feel to This Is Your Life, implicit in the vocals that hit home with every word. A song with sharp edges among the charm and wonder.
“This is your life and there’s no one to blame, No matter how hard it gets…”
The music has a real bluesy feel to it, John Hackett’s flute flowing jauntily and Oliver’s pin sharp guitar really hitting home along with the superb cello, a rather pleasing track indeed.
Starts Again arrives with a jaunty atmosphere, created by the fantastic musicianship and Oliver’s laid back guitar. Another thoughtful track about how a relationship that’s going astray may work if only we could start again. The delightful chorus and relaxed mood give a feel of a sophisticated folk song with added layers of inventiveness, especially with that impish flute…
“And I doubted many a night, With your eyes poised to strike, And your tongue cut like a knife, It’s just no way to live life…”
Amy co-wrote A Beautiful Lie with John Hackett, a song about a relationship that’s run its course but we’re still living ‘A Beautiful Lie’. Gorgeously simple and shimmering with restrained intensity, there’s an uncomplicated honesty to the song and Jane’s pensive cello adds a touch of elegant sorrow to proceedings. A wonderful, if sad song that will really touch you.
“Dam your love and dam the water, Hold it back to keep control, Dam your love and dam the water, Until the day you overflow…”
Another somber track, Overflow carries on the pared back and less-is-more feel where the vocals add to the tension and pent up emotion. The music works in tandem with the vocals to add a wall of delicious sound, adding to the suspense and apprehension. Purgatory has a really serious tone, dealing with the mental abuse of a child but done in a very sympathetic manner. Amy is not afraid with dealing with contentious subjects and the beauty of the song even adds to the gravitas of the situation.
“Why can’ t you just smile, And wish me well, But you can’t hit a nail, Where it won’t go…”
Painful and yet hauntingly beautiful, there’s a solemn tale at the core of You Can’t Hit A Nail. A melancholy song that bleeds wistful sorrow from the flute and cello and where the vocal performance could have come straight from the stage of a West End musical. Sorrowful and even bitter, why do sad songs say so much? Fragile, poignant and yet, ultimately uplifting, Free has a feeling of emotional release in its heartfelt lyrics and superbly pared back music, just listen to the brilliant guitar playing and the inspiring close to this elegant song.
“There’s a clock ticking inside of me, And it won’t leave me alone, And it’s joined by a friend, my conscience, And it owns my body and soul, And it keeps on beating along to the sound of Me, I Am Me…”
This insightful, charismatic musical journey is brought to a close with the superb Me, I Am Me, bringing the story around full circle. An assertive vocal mirrors the lyrical content and the music has an almost classical feel to it. Powerful, affectional and heartwarming, this song is making a personal statement and one that is delivered with confidence. It is the perfect close to the album.
Beatrix Players return triumphant with the mesmerising ‘Living & Alive’, a collection of songs that are bewitching and compelling and leave you in no doubt of their stature in the music industry of today. The sublime voice of Amy Birks and outstanding musicianship on show have created one of the most outstanding releases of 2023 and one that should be on your list of must buy albums, it really is that good!
Released 22nd September, 2023.
Pre-order digital here:
Pre-order CD at Burning Shed: