From the start of Raechel Whitchurch’s debut album, Finally Clear, it feels like we’ve been invited to a party we always wanted to go to, where the welcome is warm, the guests friendly, the setting lovely and the entertainment perfect. Moreover, our host holds us in an embrace the whole time – and we never want to leave. Finally Clear is Whitchurch issuing that invitation, to come to her party, and even though we don’t know her and we don’t know what to expect, she’s going to ensure we have a really great time. That’s because she has taken care to produce a truly thoughtful, beautifully written and brilliantly executed collection of songs, produced by Matt Fell. It’s the sort of care that comes from an artist who takes her audience seriously and also takes herself or, at least, her work seriously – as she should. In Australia we tend to tear down people who know they have a talent and should nurture it – it’s that ever-so-stubborn tall poppy syndrome – so there is always courage involved in doing this. It’s safe to say Whitchurch has courage, as she stepped away from music for several years before she began writing songs again, deciding to not let the fear of failure stop her. She has also cultivated her talent in a way that benefits her and us.
Whitchurch is a singer-songwriter from Parkes, NSW/Wiradjuri country; she lived in Sydney for a while and is now back in the country. As a youngster she performed in her family’s band, The Lees, and having seen her play live that early experience has no doubt contributed to the power of her live performance. Her family also features prominently on the album, quite obviously in the lovely ‘My Father’; the family she’s created with her husband and fellow musician, Ben Whitchurch, also appears in the songs. Whitchurch has a strong sense of how family and time intersect, how our involvements and entanglements with others are usually all in a jumble of memories and experiences and hopes, rather than neatly following a line. She has an ability to reach into that jumble and pull out the threads of a story, spin them around a wheel and make something of them.
There are moments both sombre and light on this album. ‘Country Families’ is heartbreaking and ‘I Used to Think I Was an Outlaw’, is a bundle of joy and whimsy. ‘There’s Enough to Go Around’ is a gentle rebuke as well as a mission statement. Overall, Finally Clear is an offering of love to family, children, husband, friends and the land, and to us, the listeners. It comes from a place of generosity in Whitchurch as a performer, and it suggests how deeply she understands her role as an artist, because if she doesn’t open her heart to us, we can’t open ours to her. On this album she’s also opened home and hearth to us, and welcomed us in with wide open arms. This may be a party you don’t want to leave but the good thing is you can listen to the album as many times as you like, so you can stay. She’ll keep you company.
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