Helen Watson

J.A.D.'s Helen Watson Webpage

(always under construction; last update March 25th, 2003)

Helen Helen Watson's matured voice gives a welcome change in the world of singer/songwriters. Her music lies in between blues, soul, jazz and folk. Helen started playing in the club-folkcircuit during the late sixties. She was one half of a soul duo, a singer with a blues band called Loose Lips (this quartet made two albums on the Appaloosa label in Italy), a frontgirl for a Manchester band called Well Knit Frames, and a backing singer for Carmel. Her unique style has earned her much session work, which in the early 80's led to an interest in her songwriting and a subsequent recording contract with EMI. During this period Helen worked with artists such as Little Feat, Albert Lee, Andy Fairweather-Low and toured Europe with Joe Cocker. In the early nineties Helen was a member of Hell Bent Heaven Bound who toured in Europe, America and Canada.

Her first album Blue Slipper came out in 1987, followed by The weather Inside in 1989. Companion Gal, the only album I could not yet get my hands on came out in 1992. During the following years Helen's music style changed from a more rockier approach to a more easier folk style of singing which you can here on her next two albums, Notes on Desire (1995) and Somersault (1997).

Helen is also one of the five singers on the album Daphne's Flight (1996), a collaboration for five of Britain's best women singers: Christine Collister, Melanie Harrold, Julie Matthews, Helen Watson and Chris While.

Somersault was co-produced by fellow Daphne's Flight member Julie Matthews with guest appearances by Chris While, Howard Lees, Christine Collister, Chris Leslie and Julie Matthews. A few of the songs are co-writes but most of them are inspired and written by herself. You can read more on the Fledg'ling Records webpage.

Helen Helen also worked with Christine Collister on Christine's album "Blue Aconite". She was the associate producer, co-writer of the song 'Kicking in my stall', and background singer and harmonica player on some of the songs. And Helen sings backing vocals on Chris While's album "In The Big Room". She also co-wrote the song 'Walk beside you' with Chris and July. On Chris While & Julie Matthews new album "Piecework", Helen sings backing vocals and co-wrote one song 'Hard to find the way' with Chris and Julie. You can find more details on the Fledg'ling Records webpage or check out Chris and Julie's website. Helen can also be heard performing backing vocals on the (soon to be released) Emmy Lou Harris / Linda Rondstadt collaboration album.

I wan't to thank Patrick Hnidka and Martin Smith for his kind contribution to this web-page.

Some Reviews

"Helen Watson, blessed with excellent phrasing and control she slips effortlessly from breathy, seductive jazz to gritty R&B." Folk on Tap....

"There's no arguing with claims citing her as one of the country'spremier jazz blues singers." Live review from Ronnie Scotts.

"A singer of goose pimply beauty and songwriter of rare depth." City Life

"Helen Watson is a long neglected gem who's keeping R&B alive and positively kicking for anyone willing to listen. Maybe 'Notes on Desire' will be the one to place her smack bang in the middle of our somnolent air waves. It'd certainly be a 500 watt jolt to the sleeping programmers out there." Siobhan Long , Hot Press.

"Helen's second album should finally establish her as a singer songwriting in the Joni Mitchell mould. A bright future beckons for this crystalvoiced lady." Q Magazine

Gigs & Appearances

New Gig Dates

For information and bookings call Jil Barke
Blue Moon Music
39 Chapel Street
Barnsley S70 5UW
Tel/Fax 01226 746821


The Helen Watson Band, 1st of November 1997.
By Martin Smith

The new set up is an unplugged trio. A little girl, Nicki Dupuy, who looks about 14 plays double bass. She ain't no Danny Thompson but she is OK, very solid, and played some nice jazzy stuff, especially in the second half.

Helen Helen played acoustic guitar and occasional harmonica. In her old band she didn't play anything; I only knew she could play these instruments because I saw her do it with Daphne's Flight. She plays guitar very well, with a neat picking style. She sang beautifully, and effortlessly, showing her full vocal range.

The revelation for me was Michael Parker who played acoustic guitar, and played any solos that were going. I've heard of him as he played in a sort of Brecht / Weill cabaret duo called Jungr and Parker, and there is a bit of mention of that on the Fledgling page in the Christine Collister biog and I see you feature the Heaven Bound recording on your page. He played guitar nicely, and his backing vocal meshed very well with Helen's; they have a knack of sounding like more than 2 people.

But his lead singing was fabulous. He has a fair vocal range himself, seems to be able to produce a variety of voices, and is seriously at home with the blues. You won't see a better example of a guy who should have been born black! He sang a fine version of George Jones' "She thinks I still care" sounding very much like the ol' drinker himself. And blues-wise he did Howling Wolf's "How many more years?", Jimmy Reed's "I'll change my style", and a encore version of "Walkin' the dawn" which was great. Sometimes Helen just sang second vocal, or sometimes played harmonica on his tunes. They also sang a very sleazy version of a (presumably) old blues tune from the Hell Bent revue days (Gee baby ain't I good to you)

All in all a good show. To be honest at half time I thought it was a nice idea that couldn't sustain a whole set, but the second half was much better and I was impressed overall. I wonder how much is due to age / maturity / time for a change, and how much is down to economics? It it wasn't for the double bass they could tour in a car!

The usual suspects were there in force. Chris While, Julie Mathews and Howard Lees were in the front row, and the lovely Christine Collister sat 2 rows behind me throughout.

Helen From studying your page I can recall some of the other tunes they did;

I ain't got you (acappella)
You'll never go away
Out of left field
Home before you know it
Kicking in my stall
Notes on desire
I told you I love you - now get out!
Billy but beautiful
Someone you want to be with (more than me)

If you know anything more about her or if you have some pictures, reviews or anything else please e-mail me (Alex) at: jad @ bart.nl


Loose Lips Albums

My Past Life Have Gone (1980)
Feel The Benefit (1981)

Solo Albums

Blue Slipper
The Weather Inside
Companion Gal
Notes on Desire

Other Albums

Hell Bent Heaven Bound II
Daphne's Flight


When you love me I get lazy
I'm jealous dear
Hanging out the washing


Hanging out the washing

CD cover picture   Blue Slipper (1987)
EMI Records CDP 7483212

By: John Bauldie/Q Magazine, November 1987

With Frames' guitarist Martin McGroarty, Helen Watson made a demo tape of their co-written songs which found its way to manager Deke Arlon and producer Glyn Johns and. . .Whoosh! Before she knew it, Helen was in LA recording with some superb musicians, most notably Paul Barrere, Bill Payne and Richie Hayward of Little Feat, back in the studio together for the first time since Lowell George's death in 1979.

Blue Slipper is a good record, Helen Watson has a very easy but characterful voice which adapts itself well to several types of song. The songs too are always interesting and impressively put together -- particularly the title track, a look back to childhood which Watson sings beautifully, like Maria Muldaur at her best, and which features wonderful guitar-playing from Michael Landau. Blue Slipper may not make Helen Watson famous or rich, but it certainly deserves attention. (4 stars out of 5)

 Track   Title   Songwriter   Playing Time 
1 You're not the rule (you're the exception)  H. Watson / M. McGroarty  04:10
2 Boys own world H. Watson / M. McGroarty 02:30
3 When you love me I get lazy H. Watson / M. McGroarty 05:01
4 The new rock island line H. Watson / M. McGroarty 04:03
5 Blue slipper H. Watson / M. McGroarty 05:12
6 Don't stop now H. Watson / M. McGroarty 03:34
7 I'm jealous dear H. Watson / M. McGroarty 02:57
8 Sway H. Watson / M. McGroarty 04:20
9 Chrome solder H. Watson 03:43
10 Don't forget to say your prayers H. Watson / M. McGroarty 03:39
11 Rock myself to sleep H. Watson / M. McGroarty 04:13

CD cover picture   The Weather Inside (1989)
EMI Records CDP 7918832 (UK: CDSCX6717)

By: Henry Williams/Q Magazine, April 1989

Unwittingly responsible for the reformation of Little Feat (the surviving members re-met as session players on her 1987 debut LP), Helen Watson's second album should finally establish her as a singer/songwriter in the Joni Mitchell mould. If her lilting, folksy singing recalls the '60s, the treatment of these often wordy songs by veteran producer Glyn Johns is resolutely modern. Having struggled through the '70s and most of the '80s trying to get a record deal, it's clear she's now fallen on her feet. The tracks 'Dangerous daybreak' and 'Now we'll move a river' stand out, but none of the other nine songs is under par. A bright future beckons for this crystal-voiced lady. (3 stars out of 5)

 Track   Title   Songwriter   Playing Time 
1 I wish that love was simple H.Watson / M.McGroarty 03:26
2 You're so hard to get hold of H.Watson / M.McGroarty 03:34
3 The road that ends in tears H.Watson / M.McGroarty 03:25
4 The weather inside H.Watson / M.McGroarty 02:43
5 Your face H.Watson / M.McGroarty 02:43
6 Hanging out the washing
(in a small back yard)
H.Watson / M.McGroarty 04:22
7 A thrill enough to know H.Watson / M.McGroarty 04:10
8 Dangerous daybreak H.Watson / M.McGroarty / S.Stead / J.Ellis / T.Trundle 03:51
9 Now we'll move the river H.Watson / M.McGroarty 03:46
10 Ready to fly H.Watson / M.McGroarty 03:18
11 Letters of introduction H.Watson / M.McGroarty 04:04

Companion Gal (1992)
RCA PD 75193

By: Phil Sutcliffe/Q Magazine, April 1992

Helen Watson has her own slant on love songs. 'Not a word like "Love" in sight' actually forbids use of the old four letters, while urging, 'Pour your vocabulary into my arm / Praise me up, let the syllables touch'. Love is likewise absent from her thoughts on toy boy candidate 'Billy But Beautiful': 'The most delicious parts/Is we will never break each others' hearts'. If an intellect can be sensuous, Watson's is -- and her voice matches the wit and salty flavour of her lyrics. However, she still lacks the melodies to cement a song in the whistle and hum part of the brain, and the production, in a range of soft rock styles, is strangely lifeless. So, far all its attractive intelligence, Companion Gal may well leave Helen Watson as before: respected, but mainly sales-free. (3 stars out of 5)

 Track   Title 
1 There must be some mistake
2 Someone you want to be with (more than me)
3 Not a word like "Love" in sight
4 Companion gal
5 Breakout the birdcage
6 Billy but beautiful
7 The devil in you
8 I won't tell on you
9 Manners
10 Then we came to the sea
11 #163#100 Watch
12 One blue suit

CD cover picture   Notes on Desire (1995)
Building Records CD 001

By: Johnny Black/Q Magazine, April 1996

An ex-teacher from Manchester, Helen Watson has been through the mill, almost losing sight of the goal posts during her residence at EMI and RCA, but she's back on track again with songs honed in clubs where people actually pay money and pay attention. She's not breaking any barriers, but six albums into a low-key career, she knows how to construct a tune, decorate it with just the right instrumental flourishes, then furnish the finished artefact with honest lyrics sung with an elegantly jazzy pizzazz that draws on the finest mainstream singers of the last 50 years. (3 stars out of 5)

 Track   Title   Songwriter   Playing Time 
1 Shiver H. Watson / M. McGroarty 03:24
2 Isn't that what it's for H. Watson / M. McGroarty 03:34
3 Since I fell for you Bud Johnson 04:14
4 Time of your life H. Watson / M. McGroarty 03:38
5 Notes on desire H. Watson / M. McGroarty 03:55
6 Blame it on the sun Syreeta Wright / Stevie Wonder 03:31
7 Magnificent H. Watson / M. McGroarty 03:57
8 From the top H. Watson / M. McGroarty 03:23
9 I told you I love you - now get out! Frigo / Ellis / Carter 03:33
10 Conversation H. Watson / M. McGroarty 03:55
11 Let me be the first to tell you H. Watson / M. McGroarty 03:54
12 The last thing I need H. Watson / M. McGroarty 04:19
13 Jackie you're moody H. Watson / M. McGroarty / T. Trundle 03:22
14 I Want More Billie holliday 04:13
15 Fell for it H. Watson / M. McGroarty 04:47

CD cover picture  

Somersault (1997)
Fledg'ling Records FLED 3013

Fledg'ling press release Autumn 1997 :

'Somersault' Presents a previously unrecorded side of Helen's music through a remarkable series of bguiling and intriguing songs plus a gorgeous reading of the Dan Penn / Spooner Oldham classic 'Out of left field'. Guests include Christine Collister, Howard Lees, Julie Matthews & Chris While.

 Track   Title   Songwriter   Playing Time 
1 Help you forget H.Watson 03:52
2 Smoke signals H.Watson / E.Johns 04:21
3 You'll never go away H.Watson / H.Lees 04:48
4 Out of left field D.Penn / S.Oldham 03:13
5 Close to making sense H.Watson / H.Lees 04:56
6 Ground floor flat H.Watson / M.McGroarty 02:46
7 Value H.Watson 02:48
8 Home before you know it H.Watson 03:38
9 Falg H.Watson 01:52
10 All weather girls H.Watson / H.Lees 02:53
11 Kicking in my stall H.Watson / C.Collister 02:59
12 Wasted on me H.Watson / H.Less 03:31
13 Lowish time H.Watson 03:40

CD cover picture  

Doffing (1999)
Fledg'ling Records FLED 3024

doff dof, vt to take off, to put off, to lift (one's hat) in greeting someone

 Track   Title   Songwriter   Playing Time 
1 Keep what I got James Moore (Slim Harpo) 02:42
2 Personally Paul Kelly 03:54
3 Mystery train Junior Parker 02:56
4 I want to live & love Sullivan & Walker 01:45
5 Cruisin' William Robinson & Marvin Tarplin 05:41
6 I thank the Lord my prayers Helen Watson 02:34
7 Losing the feeling W. Hale 03:08
8 Barefootin' Robert Parker 02:21
9 Icy blue heart John Hiatt 04:21
10 Ain't got you Bruce Springsteen 02:26
11 Have mercy Don Covay 02:22
12 I'm your puppet Dan Penn & Spooner Oldham 03:25
13 That's all it took D Edwards, C Greer & G Jones 03:50
14 I thought about you Jimmy van Heusen & Johnny Mercer 02:33
15 Lush life Billy Strayhorn 02:31

Hell Bent Heaven Bound II (1993)
Barb Jungr / Christine Collister / Michael Parker / Helen Watson

A studio recording of all the songs featured in the stage show "Hell Bent Heaven Bound II - Money The Final Frontiers" linking these four great voices in a set of exciting and inventive arrangements of a very wide ranging set of material. This tape is all recorded directly to DAT and lasts over 70 minutes. "Four highly individual voices whose collective sound is nothing short of tremendous" (Guardian).

 Track   Title 
1 You've got to pick a pocket or two
2 Nothin' going on but the rent
3 Gee baby ain't I good to you
4 Your cash ain't nothin' but trash
5 My heart belongs to daddy
6 America
7 One meat ball
8 Pharaohs
9 Summertime
10 Alimony
11 Do it again
12 Mocking bird
13 Money
14 Show biz kids
15 Dark as a dungeon
16 I ain't got you
17 Wall street shuffle
18 Satisfied mind
19 Soavey soavey
20 I'll take care of you
21 Smile

CD cover picture   Daphne's Flight (1996)
Fledg'ling Records FIVE 005
Christine Collister / Melanie Harrold / Julie Matthews / Helen Watson / Chris While

By: John Crosby/Q Magazine, June 1996

A debut collaboration for five of Britain's best women singers: Christine Collister, Melanie Harrold, Julie Matthews, Helen Watson and Chris While. With a shared musical pedigree that includes work with Richard Thompson, The Albion Band, Gery Rafferty, Little Feat, Glyn Johns, Hank Wangford, and Clive Gregson, Daphne's Flight carries all the weight of those musical apprenticeships. The self-penned songs are particularly strong but the handful of cover versions surprise with their power (Bill Wither's Ain't No Sunshine is an unlikely choice but Collister's deep, involved singing sits nicely against the '60s girl group coo-ing of the accompanying voices). One or two songs, however, do have the shine rubbed off them by "soulful" overemoting , notably Melanie Harrold's Over and Over. (3 stars out of 5)

Daphne's Flight

Though Helen Watson only sings lead vocal on two songs, the five women sing and play on all tracks.

 Track   Title   Lead vocal   Playing Time 
1 Over and over Melanie Harrold 04:48
2 Ain't no sunshine Christine Collister 03:53
3 Another year another day Chris While 04:18
4 The calling Julie Matthews 04:14
5 Gone Helen Watson 03:29
6 The letter Melanie Harrold 07:41
7 Father adieu all 04:36
8 Guilty Christine Collister 04:47
9 Shake out your silver Helen Watson 04:47
10 Circle round the sun Chris While 05:08
11 Rise above the tide of life Julie Matthews 04:43

JAD's Home Page Beth Nielsen Chapman Lauren Christy Lou Dalgleish
Wendy Matthews Misty Oldland Suzanne Rhatigan Helen Watson


Home Page of J.A.D. van Renesse van Duivenbode (Alex)
The Nertherlands, Europe
you can E-mail me at: jad @ bart.nl

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