Helen Watson

b. Manchester, England. An always competent, sometimes exhilarating interpreter of soul, jazz and blues songs, Helen Watson began her solo recording career in the late 80s with two albums of blues standards for EMI Records. Since then her albums have revealed shifts to and from a jazz and blues bedrock, but maintained an elegance and an intelligence which has ensured she continues to be heralded by both the jazz and blues cognoscenti. By the time she had moved to London at the age of nine, she had already succumbed to her father’s record collection of Billie Holiday, Ella Fitzgerald and Peggy Lee. This was soon subsumed by a love of the Rolling Stones, and what she herself describes as an ‘undistinguished’ Drama and English teaching career. She first started performing on the folk circuit in the late 60s, and later sang in a soul duo, the blues quartet Loose Lips (who made two albums, My Past Life Have Gone (1980) and Feel The Benefit (1981), for the Appaloosa label), and the group Well Knit Frames. She continued to sing with friends, however, eventually resulting in a permanent backing vocals slot behind Carmel. She continued to write with Well Knit Frames’ guitarist Martin McGroarty, until their work attracted the attention of producer Glyn Johns. Watson’s first solo albums were recorded with Johns, as well as a stellar cast of musicians, including Paul Barrere, Bill Payne and Richie Hayward of Little Feat. For 1989’s The Weather Inside she was joined by Andy Fairweather-Low, who also reappeared on her RCA Records debut, Companion Gal. This was produced by the La’s / Graham Parker producer Bob Andrews, and featured a typically enchanting blend of personal and anecdotal narrative. However, despite strong sales in Europe and an extremely favourable critical reaction, it failed to sell in the quantities a major label expected and her contract was not renewed. This resulted in the independent release of Notes On Desire. In the interim Watson had become a fixture of the British festival scene, again accruing almost universal critical praise for her emphatic and versatile live performances. In the mid-90s she recorded and toured as a member of the female folk supergroup Daphne’s Flight. She remained with the group’s record label, Fledg’ling Records, for the release of the roots-orientated Somersault (1997), Doffing (1999) and Lifesize (2002).

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