Urban preview: Speech Debelle, on tour

Plug, Sheffield, Sat; Night & Day, Manchester, Sun; Leeds University, Mon; The Arches, Glasgow, Thu; Stiff Kitten, Belfast, Fri

As hardcore as its maker's recent life has been, if there's a word for Speech Debelle's debut album, Speech Therapy, then it's "civilised". A collection based on the MC-singer's undeniable personal hardships, the selling point of Corynne Elliot's album is the juxtaposition of these songs with their sophisticated settings: from live jazz to synthetic strings. The overall effect, weirdly enough, is a kind of restaurant music. Not that this seems to have discouraged the judges of the Mercury Music Prize, who earlier this month picked Speech Therapy to win the 2009 award. No one would deny that her backstory (troubled childhood, homelessness) is moving, sad, and interesting, but her album, simply, isn't.

• Plug, Sheffield, Sat; Night & Day, Manchester, Sun; Leeds University, Mon; The Arches, Glasgow, Thu; Stiff Kitten, Belfast, Fri


John Robinson

The GuardianTramp

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