Too often, when an up-and-coming artist tries to mine Kate Bush territory, they focus on those big, panoramic records like Never For Ever and beyond. Never mind that those albums were adventurous even for Kate herself. It would make more sense to step back to examine some of her earlier work, when she was still a precocious teenager finding her voice (literally) and finding her place among a growing muse.
Blue Roses, the creative moniker for Laura Groves, is an organically derived debut that sounds more homespun than The Kick Inside, but it wonderfully shares that album’s obvious sense of exploration even when there’s no clear map to follow. It could easily be considered as the true offspring of that album since it shares so much of its unfettered vision and, on occasion, similar arrangements. With one listen, you begin to ponder if Groves herself is about to embark on a journey of comparable success or, in a more cynical view, are we in a commercial market where we no longer allow the time and kid gloves to let such artists grow.
Blue Roses was built from Groves’ own blueprint, but it took a bunch of local generosity to really get off the ground. From the friends and acquaintances that contribute their own voices and instruments to the project, to the locales in which the album was recorded, this is an album of honest collaboration and admirable friendships. There’s the story of the wealthy owner of a Steinway concert piano who agreed—solely based on hearing Groves’ work—to allow her to use the expensive instrument for the recording of Blue Roses before being able to use it for themselves. Think of it this way: would you let the instrument of your dreams be played before you got your own hands on it? I certainly wouldn’t.
Then again, I haven’t been blessed with coming across someone with such inherent talent as Laura Groves.
Lyrically, Blue Roses is full of wide-eyed songs of places yet visited, of relationships dreamed, and images built from imagination rather than experience. But musically, Groves shows an old soul at work, weaving complex piano arrangements over double-tracked harmonies that eerily evoke those first few Kate Bush albums. When other instruments are introduced, they’re of the acoustic variety, lending Blue Roses a rural feel where true escape comes in the form of learning a few chords from antique shop discoveries.
“I wish that I could photograph my moods / Show them to you,” Laura sings on the album’s vast centerpiece “I Wish I,” but there’s enough imagery throughout the song’s six-and-a-half minute running time to put together a cohesive picture of what makes Laura Groves tick. More importantly, it points to the possibility that Blue Roses may be the beginning of a very worthy career, provided that she doesn’t stray from those beautiful visions in her head.
Video: Blue Roses – “Coast” (live)