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Little Annie and Paul Wallfisch - Genderful

Does Little Annie need an introduction? A formidable presence in underground music circles: recording with anarcho punks CRASS, albums with Adrian Sherwood's heavy On-U Sound dub collective, cameos with Coil and Current 93. Hell, I even remember her singing back-up with Into A Circle. Over the past few years she released Songs From The Coal Mine Canary with songs written in collaboration with Backworld's Joe Budenholzer and Antony Hegarty. When Good Things Happen To Bad Pianos her first collaboration with Paul Wallfisch of Botanica redrew a selection of standards and contemporary songs into cabaret, music hall and late-night piano songs . At the same time her intimate shows have gained much plaudits. And now we have Genderful her first full production co-written with Paul Wallfisch.

"Show me a tragedy and I'll give you a hero" she rasps on the opening track 'Tomorrow Will Be' and then twists the words engraved on the Statue of Liberty to side with the outsiders, the downtrodden, the tarnished. Over tinkling piano, bells and light drum rhythms the entire thing is shot through with a colourful optimism with Little Annie adopting a mother earth persona. Genderful is loaded with her rich wry lyricism. It's tender, knowing, emotive, poignant and, at times, spiritual.

Genderful conveys an aching sentimentality for people and places, whether it's for the soulless transformation of her home city, New York, or for friends and family. Over the lush strings and classical piano score of 'Because You're Gone' her breathy gushing delivery fails to fill the emptiness left after the loss of a loved one. There's still time for the outsiders on 'Carried Away' a beautiful sobering paean to a "glamorous, amorous" broken soul lost to the bottle in an ensemble piece with wonderful swirling organ. Genderful gives voice to characters not heard since Antony and the Johnsons eponymous debut.

Over the grooving trip-hop rhythm and rhythmic guitar playing of 'Billy Martin Requiem' Little Annie in an almost cabaret-rapping delivery remembers a latter-day NYC, its people, its personalities and its outsiders that lit up the city, with a roll-call of the deceased from Sylvester, Leigh Bowery, Robert Mapplethorpe, Keith Haring... 'Cutesy Bootsies' mourns the gentrification of NYC in a darkly sardonic music hall track directed squarely at the beautiful vacuous affluent with their mochachino-sipping, cell-phone gossiping, bland lifestyles.

And there's still room for Brelisms in the string laden piano ballad 'Miss Annie Regrets', with its nod to Billie Holliday, and 'In The Bar Womb' with its late night tales of drinking, reminisces and drunken outpourings. The directness of piano and voice seemingly capturing the intimacy of her live performance.

Genderful sidesteps cabaret for two surprising tracks. 'Suitcase Full Of Secrets' with Little Annie's knowing well worn husky voice on a tender ballad with soul guitar and heartbreaking strings, while she thanks the lord on 'The God Song'. Infused with Latin rhythms and spirited horns Little Annie, a self-ordained minister, finds time to pass on her appreciation for Judy Garland, Frank Sinatra, Mavis Staples, Donny Hathaway, proving that this girl when not breaking your heart can move your feet.

Genderful comes full circle on the closing track where the voice of Paul Wallfisch appears alongside Little Annie on 'Adrianna', a piano based track that symbolises the destruction of NYC in a tale of a homeless transsexual.

In an age of faceless and interchangeable female singers Little Annie remains fiercely independent and resolutely distinctive. With its mixture of cabaret, music hall and torch songs Genderful is wonderfully out-of-step and I can't wait to catch her shows when she accompanies Marc Almond on his series of UK dates. Recommended. For more information go to