Waiting on Voyage is the debut album by twenty-one year old British singer/songwriter George Ezra, yet another in a long list of twenty-something year olds breaking through in this very in vogue acoustic-folk style. However, at the same time, this guy is quite different stylistically from the likes of Ed Sheeran and Jake Bugg largely thanks to his very distinctive singing voice.
George Ezra’s voice when you hear for the first time is a voice that you do not immediately think belongs to a twenty-one year old, and sounds more so like someone in their sixties, someone with years of singing behind them. With this in mind, I must confess that I don’t think I have heard a voice quite like this one on someone in the early stages of their career, and Ezra certainly has a voice way beyond his years. Sound-wise I would describe his voice as being a cross between Eddie Vedder and someone in the ilk of Robert Johnson, or other delta blues musicians, with its warm bluesy tone and deepness. It is this unique and very mature voice which more than anything ensures that Ezra’s music stands out within what is quite a saturated singer-songwriter market, and after hearing a couple of singles, made his debut album Waiting on Voyage that much more intriguing to find out if the songs themselves could match up to the singer.
Ezra’s music is very much acoustic-based (he uses a semi-acoustic guitar and occasionally a resonator) and contains a blend of folk, skiffle, blues, and pop. Yes the song-writing at this stage is quite simplistic and the music definitely owes a lot to Ezra’s unique voice and the overall sense of melody it portrays, but often when you have such a distinct sound in your armoury whether it be a distinctive guitar, or singing style, simplicity can work best, with complex arrangements or experimental sounds only working to distract the listener. With this in mind, at times the music on here does suffer a bit from over-production, with whoever is producing trying to give some of the tracks a modern pop kick to them, something which is totally unnecessary. Some of the tracks could do without the synths, sequencing and electronic backing as they do not add anything, and quite frankly do not work well with the style of music Ezra is playing.
So what tracks stand out on the album? Well the album kicks off with a great opener “Blame It on Me”, which contains some skiffle influences in the guitar playing and also has a great sing-a-long chorus, something most of the songs on here contain. “Budapest” is one of the singles on the album which began to get Ezra noticed in the music world, and is more a mellower folk track with a slight calypso feel to it especially in the vocals and guitar. It is on tracks like this one that you really get to hear the unique quality of Ezra’s voice and his very distinctive deep tone. “Cassy O” is the second single, and although lyrically it is a bit throw-a-way, it has a very nice country shuffle to it and does a good job in highlighting Ezra’s efficient rhythm guitar playing, a style that is quite experimental when it comes to different strum patterns. “Did You Hear the Rain” musically is perhaps the most interesting track on the record and begins with a very haunting delta-blues like moan, before Ezra begins singing a cappella in a deep bluesy voice which sounds as if it could have come straight from the cotton fields in the Southern states of America, it is truly something. The track then transitions into a bit of an alt-folk track full of mood and feeling in what is definitely one of the album highlights. “Drawing Board”, “Stand by Your Gun” and “Barcelona” are also other noteworthy tracks on what is a very varied album stylistically and one which keeps the listener guessing as to what will come next, with Ezra bouncing from style to style across each track. There are a few dud tracks on the record, namely “Leaving It Up to You”, “Breakaway” and “Over the Creek”, but on the whole these are the exception to the rule and do not really diminish the overall quality of the album.
Waiting on Voyage is a very interesting and eclectic first up effort from George Ezra. There are a lot of things going on here musically which stand out and the fact he is willing to move from style to style across the album is quite daring for a debut. At times the production does get a bit too much and sees some of the songs lose their focus a bit, with the production team going dangerously down the pop for pop sake road which tends to be employed a lot in this day and age. Despite this, there is definitely plenty to work with here and if anything his quite remarkable voice will ensure he has a future in the industry. It will be very interesting to see where he goes from here musically, especially as he begins to mature as a song-writer, while as the voice itself, maturity-wise is already there.