Wednesday, August 01, 2012

Sarah Beatty: "Black Gramophone" (album review)

If you like your singer-songwriters to feature vocal harmonies and an emphasis on melody, then I may have something for you.  Sarah Beatty is a native of Parry Sound, now residing in Hamilton.  She recently released her debut album Black Gramophone.

Often I find that singer-songwriters, to put it bluntly, don't know when to shut up.  They sing on and on in a monotonous tone with ham-fisted 'poetic' lyrics.  Fortunately, Beatty proves to be an exception (much like Toronto's Shawn Clarke).  She keeps her songs tight, ensuring they don't wear out their welcome.

The highlight of the album is the vocal work of Beatty.  From the sweet harmonizing she does (with herself) on the opener "To Be", it is hard not to be charmed by the honest emotion that comes through in her singing. Her delivery on "What Do We Say", for example, is so intimate and vulnerable that you swear she was singing to herself in her living room.

Beatty keeps the arrangements interesting as well.  They range from the bluesy strum of "Finer Things" to the chugga chugga train ride "Oil In the Ground", to the surprisingly groovy "The Mighty Molecule".

Lyrically, Beatty rarely approaches a subject from the obvious angle.  Instead she tackles well-trodden grounds with a combination of humour and cute imagery that makes songs like "Hard Hearted Love (Right Next To Me)" stand out from a crowded pack.

Black Gramophone isn't perfect.  "Dark Days" and "Close To Me" are a tad pedestrian.  All in all though, this is a fine debut record, and one more singer-songwriters should use as a model for their own works.

Best tracks: "The Mighty Molecule", "Hard Hearted Love (Right Next To Me)"

Track listing for Black Gramophone:
  • To Be
  • Finer Things
  • The Mighty Molecule
  • Refrain
  • What Do We Say
  • Cans In The Sink
  • Hard Hearted Love (Right Next To Me)
  • Oil In the Ground
  • Dark Days
  • The Right Shoes
  • Close To Me
  • Autumn's Song

No comments: