Three years in the making, Is Your Love Big Enough? is the assured debut of 23-year-old UK guitarist and vocalist, Lianne La Havas. Often with little more than words and her guitar, La Havas’ introduction to an audience outside her native England provides a new sound on nearly every track, yet manages to create a consistent mosaic of this new artist. Helmed by Matt Hales (aka Aqualung), the unlikely collaboration does a wonderful job of veering away from the expected. IYLBE? is an album you think you’ve heard before–but is filled with too many twists to categorize easily.
The haunting croon of “Don’t Wake Me Up” introduces us to the non-sequitur dreamscape La Havas glides through as she opens and shuts doors on lovers past and present. Granted, not the most groundbreaking subject matter, but it’s not the size of the canoe, it’s how you row it, and La Havas takes command of these familiar waters with her distinct perspective and honesty. “Age” finds the singer talking herself into a May-December romance with the unbreakable logic of modern love, “Is it such a problem if he’s old/as long as he does whatever he is told?” It’s one of the many examples on this album where the young singer brings fresh subjects–and thoughts on those subjects–to the table. Willy Mason joins La Havas on the beautiful and sparse, “No Room for Doubt.” A more tribal yell comes on the chorus for “Forget,” the response to La Havas’ musician ex requesting her vocals on a song a year after dumping her. Of all the tracks written to boyfriends old and new, the album’s title track is La Havas’ message to herself, a reminder to prepare and enjoy all that lies ahead.
She doesn’t veer into the crass subjects the dearly departed Amy Winehouse so expertly maneuvered–or use the traditional ballad to pine over ex-boyfriends like Adele. But like her fellow countrywomen, Is Your Love Big Enough? has a core of strong songwriting that helps La Havas elbow her way into a field packed with talented women drawing from the deep well of American soul.
– Candace L.