Ella Hooper ‘Small Town Temple’

Nine years after her last full-length studio release, Australian music icon Ella Hooper has finally returned with her sophomore LP, Small Town Temple.

The multi-award-winning Killing Heidi front woman has created a profoundly personal album focusing on the themes of family, friendship, and childhood memories. It is an homage to Hooper’s hometown, Violet Town, Victoria, which has played a pivotal role in her life and music.

The album opens with the delicate Intro (VT Lullaby). With vocals from Hooper’s mum, Helen Keighery, who passed away recently, it captures the spirit of family that can be heard throughout.

The title track, Small Town Temple, swings into the country and blues sound that underpins the album. As does Grow Wild, but with a more melodic flavour. From here, it fluctuates in intensity while maintaining suitable flow and pace.

The album is a multi-genre collection of eleven songs steeped in Australiana country and blues with scatterings of pop and rock. The track listing is ideally curated. Like a fine wine that gets better with age, it progressively establishes its strength culminating in an exceptional second half.

The pairing of Get Down, Stay Down, and Achilles Heel signify the pivot point and highlight. The “love songs”, written during the thick of the pandemic, capture a raw sensitivity that is both heard and felt. Hooper’s vocals, in particular on the latter, are sublime.

The Basics And Stuff .. serves as a palate cleanser from the previous intensity. Its softer sound is light and refreshing, allowing for an effortless transition into the concluding songs.

Bookending the importance of family this album promotes, Long Gully Road features an alto recorder outro by Hooper’s dad, Jeremy, who passed away two weeks prior to her mum.

Small Town Temple is an emotive body of work. There is a lot of love in it, with Hooper pouring her heart into its creation. This has resulted in a personal yet entertaining album. The country leanings may come as a surprise to some. Yet it suitably represents the sense of rural Australia that Hooper is all too familiar with.

As the old adage goes, home is where the heart is, and Ella Hooper’s heart is firmly with family and in Violet Town. Small Town Temple is the consummate summation of that.

Album Review By Anita Kertes

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