‘Continually comforting us via an endless supply of stylish musicality, it’s a sublime piece of songwriting.’
Intro to David Baron & Fiona Glenn
Previously joining musical forces on the 2019 single ‘Plans’, and Fiona Glenn featuring on three of the tracks within David Baron’s 2020 album Whisperers, the duo further prove why they are a musical match made in heaven. Bringing a wealth of experience from having worked with artists such as Lenny Kravitz, Shawn Mendes and Phoebe Bridgers, new release ‘Don’t Give Up’, which also features a 40-piece orchestra, beautifully harnesses Baron’s much-acclaimed work as an established composer. Meanwhile, Glenn – who may only be 16 but has already performed alongside artists including Pete Seeger and Natalie Merchant – effortlessly delivers one of the most gorgeous vocals you may have ever heard. Written by Baron as a testament to his wife for standing by him throughout a health issue he faced last year, ‘Don’t Give Up’ is a poignant track that in the current climate carries even deeper meaning and aims to help those who are feeling helpless.
Making us feel like we are at an intimate venue, broken chord centred piano and soft vocals greet us. Almost like a classic jazz ballad, that also contains hints of folk, there’s a warmth, a softness, and a self-assurance about what you are hearing. The delicacy of the accompaniment feels understated, touching even, but in working below Fiona Glenn’s vocals in such a way you’re struck by the beauty of what she has to musically offer us. Projected in a way that allows for space, each phrase is experienced to the full. The most subtle reverb fills the silence between each word, and in doing so, it draws us to the next. It really is a sublime, promise-filled beginning to a track.
Solidifying a sense of tempo, with the simplistic accompaniment leaving room for countless developments, bass drum brings depth while distant acoustic guitar gradually makes itself known. Barely audible to begin with, this unassuming motif soon leads us to our first hearing of the chorus. Coinciding with the title lyrics, the intricacy suggests forwardness while the establishment of percussive rhythmical content suggests growth and momentum. As though musically encouraging you to remain motivated, it’s a combination of textural, lyrical, and melodic elements that not only highlights a wondrous level of compositional understanding, but reassures us as well.
Pushing through this first setting of the chorus, hints of what is to come to the fore later appear in a stylistic way. Never forced, but instead feeling natural, accentuated bass lines and affectionately played drum patterns interweave their way among the existing content. Meanwhile, high pitched piano moves in a near hypnotic way and stirring orchestral strings bring a romanticism. What really stands out here though – other than the genteel nature of Fiona’s vocal – is that no element dominates. Each one works in the most perfect way. If it’s needed it’s there, if it isn’t then it’s not. Sure it’s some of the most balanced songwriting ever, but even that doesn’t do it justice.
Taking us in a tonally different direction, approaching the mid point the most wonderful sound develops and these former hints flourish. Removing percussion, the momentum is found within the beat-keeping chord changes as they move through a series of modulations. Generating further depth, a mass of sinuous string countermelodies move harmonically, bringing a cinematic intent as they do so. Increasingly coming to the fore, it truly is a moment of sonic beauty, and with phrases such as ‘the mountains always call us’ soaring in an almost word-painted fashion, the whole experience is an absolute delight.
With a greater focus on orchestral tendencies in the verse content, as the chorus makes its way into our ears once again we realise that unlike most, each recurrence will be treated in an verse like manner instrumentally. Combining wider musical influences, organ lines come through reflecting soul sub-genres. Yet, while this is perhaps the most contrasting of all elements, with it embellishing fragments of the aforementioned momentum generating acoustic guitar, as well as parts of the bass line, it feels perfectly at home. Furthermore, while these enhance the accompaniment, the selectiveness of vocal harmonies enhance key lines in a way that draws attention and provides comfort.
Ensuring that this approach is taken right through to the conclusion, following a brief return to the opening intimacy the most luscious version of what we have experienced pours into our ears. Bringing soul-tinted warmth to phrases such as ‘out there in the cold’ and ‘take your pain and sorrow’, further harmonies infuse Fiona’s main vocals. Between these, solo moments showcase the classy nature of her vocals and echoes push the message forward in the most gorgeous way. The sheer quality of what you are hearing really is unbounded, and with every line carrying affection and reassurance, and the sonic setting ever-blossoming, you are left feeling deeply touched by the musicality you have just experienced.