‘The thing with grief is how it comes and goes’ – Louise Dodds on her poignant new album

Louise Dodds PIC: Hollin Jones

Grief, as Nick Cave writes, “is tidal. It can recede… only for it to wash back in on us.” Jazz singer-songwriter Louise Dodds knows all about it, having lost her 32-year-old husband, drummer Andrea Marongiu, to a heart condition in 2014.

Eight years on, the Edinburgh-based Dodds is about to release The Story Needs an Ending, her first album in nine years, the making of which has been cathartic and a final stage in her recovery. The result is an eloquent and perhaps surprisingly buoyant album, with Dodds’s clear and pliant vocals escorted with considerable panache by three respected Scottish jazz names, pianist Tom Gibbs, drummer Alyn Cosker and double-bassist Andrew Robb.

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Unable to perform for four years following Marongiu’s passing, Dodds subsequently set about planning an album which was due to be recorded in April 2020. We all know what happened next: for Dodds, however, lockdown completely changed how she viewed her entire relationship with music . “Before lockdown,” she explains, “I just wanted to put out an album and had been writing. But actually being in lockdown, on my own in my flat, made me realize that music wasn’t just something I like to do; it was actually who I am. So the new songs I wrote during lockdown were not the songs I was originally going to record.”

The album opens with her defiantly upbeat Blossom in Indigo – which, along with one other song, she composed over a drum track that Andrea had recorded for her all those years ago, here re-energized by Gibbs and company.

She dedicates the album to “all my lighthouses in the dark” and hopes it might help anyone else in a similar situation to hers: “When it happened to me I didn’t meet anyone else of my age who had been through something similar and I was really lonely,” says Dodds, now 44. “But during the Edinburgh Jazz and Blues Festival, I sang A Little Grace and explained what it was about, and a woman who had lost her husband came up to me afterwards and said, ‘I’d love to get hold of that song.’ It’s the importance of being able to listen to someone who has been through the same thing.”

A Little Grace confronts, with affecting honesty, that tidal business, as, with languid poignancy, she interrogates her grief and begs for respite. “The thing with grief is how it comes and goes. I was in a moment when I thought I’d moved through it, I’d had quite a long period without it, then one day it was suddenly there again and I was like, ‘Please, just give me that space.’”

Things have indeed moved on for her: The past year has found her a new partner, and the album’s closing song, This Is Where I Leave you is, she agrees, a letting go – its sense of casting off underpinned by Gibbs’s glittering piano and Cosker cutting loose ebulliently on drums.

She’s looking ahead, then, to launch concerts for the album – at Soho’s Pizza Express on 7 March, then Edinburgh’s Jazz Bar and Aberdeen’s Blue Lamp on 6 and 7 April respectively (see www.louisedodds.co.uk).

And amid the welcome resumption of live gigs, reedsman John Burgess reports a new series of jazz evenings he’s established on Wednesday, Thursday and Sunday nights in Leith’s Shore area – at the Malt and Hops and The Three Marys. Forthcoming sessions at the former include Seonaid Aitken and Conor Smith on 16 February, Ian Boyter on the 20th and Brian Kellock Trio on the 23rd, while The Three Marys sees Ged Brockie and Jay Munro on the 24th and Malcolm MacFarlane and Mario Caribe on the 27th .

Later this month also sees the Scottish National Jazz Orchestra present Pop! Rock! Soul! with guests Joe Locke and Kenny Washington, at the Gardyne Theatre, Broughty Ferry, on 24 February, Edinburgh’s Queen’s Hall on the 25th and Glasgow Royal Concert Hall New Auditorium on the 26th.

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George Holan

George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.

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