Amongst the chaos of this year, soul vocalist Cleo Sol released her album Mother and stepped gracefully into motherhood. The album sheds light on the cyclical experience of maternity and a tumultuous relationship with her own mum. ‘Promises’, the albums second track speaks to the values and beliefs Cleo inherited then selectively unlearned.
The cover art gives us our first glimpse into the complicated and inextricable links of the matrilineal line. A low-fi candid portrait captures Cleo, looking forward, resting her newborn on her chest. A photograph of Cleo’s mother hangs on the wall behind her. This relaxed domestic setting holds a highly charged moment between Cleo, her mother and her child.
Cleo’s soft trill is unmistakable in the all-female, British ensemble, SAULT. However, it is her solo work that has earned her widespread notoriety. Cleo’s critically acclaimed project Rose in the Dark graced our ears in 2020; a meditative soul album redolent of a young Lauryn Hill. Mother carries a more delicate tone, where her past inevitably intersects with her future.
‘Promises’ feels like an exploration of familial dialogue usually left untouched. The track has a gospel aura, where spacious rhythms carry lyrics with emotional weight. Within a letter full of promises, Cleo alludes to her mothers’ absence and makes space for forgiveness. Her soothing voice, amid layers of piano and percussion, submerges us in a soul-drenched lullaby.
Cleo leaves it ambiguous who these promises are intended for. It could be an introspective reflection, a letter to her mother or her child, in time. Although the lyrics are suggestive of her mothers’ shortcomings, the mood is one of hope. As if to say, with the perspective of a new mum, this is an opportunity to do better.
Listen to ‘Promises’ and don’t forget to give your mum a call.