There's a quiet strength to Esther Moore's debut release All Shall Be Well.
The singer songwriter's unusual voice complements a recording that fits the categories of rustic, organic and homemade that artists such as Rend Collective and All Sons and Daughters have helped make popular in recent years. Folk, acoustic and even country elements combine wonderfully on this 10-track recording.
The Jerusalem-inspired City of Gold contains the perfectly crafted lyric of "If rocks could speak all the secrets you would keep / Heroes of the faith of old", at both the beginning and the end of the acoustic guitar led track. Imagine Mumford and Sons with a female vocalist and you won't be far off the sound that's been captured here. The professionalism of both the song and accompanying music video is striking.
This is far from an upbeat record. Although the opening title track sets a decent tempo, by third song Ocean Away, the pace has already dropped. That said, Ocean Away is, like the vast majority of tunes on All Shall Be Well, deeply beautiful. The song even has a lullaby-like quality to it.
One of the album's greatest strengths is its universality. There are few overt references to God or faith. Yet at the same time neither of those aspects of Esther's songwriting is entirely hidden. The singer's ability to release a project which transcends the awkward categories of "Christian" or "Worship" music is as impressive as it is welcome.
Esther has released a record that effortlessly mixes simple melodies with deeply thoughtful lyrics. Both instruments and vocals are delivered sensitively. The gentle ascending piano riff in Aint Life Grand is one of many examples of suitable and interesting arrangements on the record.
As the album progresses the initial high standard of songwriting dips slightly. As is typical of many albums, the early catchy melodies on the record gradually give way to songs that take more time to fully appreciate.
It was inevitable that recording on a budget would affect the tone of the record. Overall it's a professional effort, but sadly some sections of the instrumentation (most notably in Through A Child's Eyes and Alive) sound muffled and even distorted. In the grand scheme of things this is a minor quibble and some may even feel it adds to the rustic, homemade feel of the record.
The live track As The Dawn is strangely buried halfway through the album. Even though it sounds remarkably similar to the other studio tracks it would perhaps have been better placed at the end of the record. Instead we're treated to Sailor Song which lifts the album into a more confident and upbeat mood. The addition of an accordion and gang vocals is welcome on a song that like the majority of its contemporaries is well written and very well delivered.
Overall, All Shall Be Well ticks all of the important boxes. It's both fun and serious, the lyrics deal with ups and downs, the music is professional and perhaps most importantly, Esther has carved out a very clear musical direction for herself. No one could question that this artist already has her own unique sound. All Shall Be Well is without doubt one of the best pop albums you're likely to hear from a new artist this year.