Susie Wilkins

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 04 August, 2002, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 04 August, 2002, 12:00am

Half Empty

(Rootless Records)

Forget the fact she grew up in Hong Kong, tirelessly singing Mustang Sally in the Fringe Club before she was legally allowed to drink there. Susie Wilkins needs no hand-outs or overly generous reviews from her home audience. Her debut album, self-funded on a label of her own making (Rootless Records), is staggeringly good. Nine tracks form a personal odyssey, through voluptuous vocals, golden guitar licks and gritty girl angst, to an end result that is not polished, but burning with the potential of a future star.

It is a hybrid - half live album (the basis of the tracks were recorded over three gigs at the Fringe Club last year) and half studio-based, with a final mastering session that took place at London's Abbey Road Studios. Moods shift throughout the album: Suffocate is sheer rock that punches the walls with driving drums and a voice that howls and rasps, Turning My Back is liquid blue and sad. On the title track, Hong Kong-based radio presenter and viola player Emma Ayres hauntingly magnifies the loneliness in Wilkins' vocals. The singer/songwriter lost her father during the year this album was made, and her raw emotion is especially tangible here.

Meanwhile, Patrick Murdock, Wilkins' musical partner (the duo spent their formative years jamming at the Fringe Club's open-mike sessions and continue to work together in London) co-writes half the songs and provides the strong musical backbone to the album.