Review: Keaton Henson – Sweetheart, What Have You Done To Us?

It was never Keaton Henson’s intention to release his music to the public, with his debut album Dear originally designed as a birthday present for a friend and his having so much talent elsewhere in the creative spectrum (he’s just released a beautiful graphic novel called Gloaming and has had exhibitions worldwide as an illustrator). All I can say is how thankful I am that he did, for both Henson’s endearing personality and stunning melodies, which have been filed alongside the likes of Bon Iver and Elliott Smith, are a much needed asset to the world of folk music.

The title track Sweetheart, What Have You Done To Us? is very much what we would expect from Keaton Henson. There are times at which the raw expression of heartbreak is so powerful that Henson seems close to tears himself, as he once again succeeds in invoking huge amounts of emotion with his striking yet vulnerable voice. All this eventually reaches a climax as the song comes to a close. Henson raises his voice, accompanied by horns and timpani drums, in an effort to denounce once and for all his newfound love with a brutal sense of honesty and melancholy.

However, Kronos may come as a shock to those acquainted with Henson’s previous album Dear. No longer, it seems, is the delicate and fragile Keaton Henson, for here his heart rendering guitar plucking is deserted in favour of a considerably more rock-influenced sound. This is certainly not a lament; it is in fact an angst-ridden statement, full of attitude, in which Henson frequently repeats the words ‘This has been the best of me, I hope you end up missing me’, with both force and feeling. At times I worried that it would become a little too aggressive for me, but the short section near the end in which the instrumentals die down and the focus lies solely on Henson’s voice is well-timed and prevents this from happening. It’s hard to believe the Keaton we thought we knew, who suffers from stage fright so severe that it prevents him from performing live, is capable of producing a song like this and it’s great to see him pushing the boundaries and going out of his comfort zone.

Flossie Wildblood