The latest release from Auburn Jam Records is the premiere studio recording of Heart of Winter, a one-woman song cycle by Stiles and Drewe ‘Best New Song’ finalist, Tim Connor (Music and Lyrics), and Lia Buddle (Story and Dramaturgy). Leading the narrative is Kate, a Northern primary school teacher in her mid-twenties. When we’re first introduced to her she has just left her boyfriend of three years, Adam, after discovering that he’s been cheating on her, and she’s going through the emotional rollercoaster of heart-break: the initial anger (and the distraction of comfort food and wine), the tears, the endless sleepless nights spent trying to make sense of what happened, wondering if it was something she did, the conflicting feelings of regret, bitterness, doubt and nostalgia – but she always has mum to turn to for comfort. For a while she’s convinced she’s better off being single, but a fling with nice, sweet Ben reminds her how good it can feel to be with someone, even if she’s not quite ready to take that leap in love again though. Kate says goodbye as a woman with new-found confidence who has made peace with what happened, and while open to the idea of finding love again someday, is happy to be on her own, and more importantly, happy with who she is on her own.
The role of Kate is expertly performed on the album by Corrine Priest, who radiates star quality. Winner of the Stephen Sondheim Student Performer of the Year Award in May 2014, she made her professional debut in GOD at the London Theatre Workshop and most recently appeared in the West End as Lucy in Ushers: The Front of House Musical at the Arts Theatre. More than just an outstanding vocalist, she has great comic timing and connects to every emotion she sings about. She knows how to act through song and adds personality to every number, bringing Kate to life so completely that she becomes a real person who takes the audience on the journey with her. Priest is undoubtedly a rising talent with the potential for great things ahead.
Tim Connor clearly knows the power of a catchy tune, and the raw truthfulness of the lyrics contained in each song – driven by Lia Buddle’s insight and story-telling – are complimented on the album by the simplicity of his piano accompaniment. Kate’s journey from heart-break to heart-mend is one filled with moments of sadness, joy and plenty of humour too. Above all else it is refreshingly honest, telling a story so many people will be familiar with in a way that completely captures the emotional roller-coaster of a break-up without dressing it up in pretty words and sugar-coating the experience for the audience. It’s a fantastic blend of both humour and woe. ‘The Driving School’ is ridiculously funny, as too is ‘Back To School’, while ‘Mum Makes It Better’ is a great number that reminds you that mum always seems to know what to say to make you feel better while avoiding becoming too sappy by also reminding how mum also seems to know how to push your buttons more than anyone else in the world! Softer, more reflective songs like ‘Better Off Alone are like a window into the soul of heart-break, showing how being hurt can create a fear of love. ‘Colour In My Cheeks’ is a particularly stand-out song. Kate’s emotional state is matched to the changing seasons, and as she sees the cold, harshness of winter give way to the hope of spring, she also begins to see the hope of a new start for her, realised in the uplifting Reprise of Colour In My Cheeks at the end of the album where Priest’s impressive vocals imbue Kate with a sense of strength and self-belief that we whole-heartedly believe are going to lead her to her Happy Ever After.
Heart of Winter is a song-cycle with an incredibly strong and truthful story at its core, which anyone who has suffered heart-break can identify with. It also offers a message of hope to anyone currently going through a similar experience, reassuring them that although it will be hard, you can and will get through it.