Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Rheanna Downey - "Pull The Moon"

There are very few artists that reside in the "singer/songwriter" genre that I get excited about. Much of it reminds me of junior high poetry, set to a soundtrack that brings me to that sad place where severe boredom sets in. It's almost mind-numbing...hearing some sad sap gently strumming on an acoustic guitar, trying their best to imitate James Taylor, or Joan Baez...both of which are well past whatever "prime" they happened to have back in 1974. I realize that most people aren't setting out to "reinvent the wheel" per se, but come on...why must so much music in a genre be soo horribly boring?! Well perk up because there is a fresh sounding voice from San Diego that will not only blow your mind musically, but thankfully erase the musical horror your folky ears have been subjected to over the years. Rheanna Downey, San Diego's own songwriting genius, has finally released her much anticipated full length record...and all I can say is that it's amazing.

Sitting comfortably in the musical arena of Patty Griffin, EmmyLou Harris, and Shawn Colvin (which is some pretty awesome company, musically speaking), Rheanna brings us 13 well-crafted songs, that have both lyrical depth and intricate orchestration. The record starts off with "Raise My Hands", a mid-tempo song that showcases Downey's knack for placing instruments, and vocals, in all the right places. The electric guitar weaves through the vocal melodies, with the piano and drums lending themselves more to atmosphere than to conquering the mix. The vocals are "up front", but they totally lack the usual thin "folk" singing that plagues most records in this genre. This is why I think this record is so special...the music sounds vibrant (and current), without being derivative. The record meanders through different styles seamlessly, melding jazz phrasing/chords ("Walls Of Snow") , with bluegrass ("It Will Find You"...for the record, the banjo hasn't sounded this good in decades), and spacey-sounding folk ("All I Want"...easily the best song on the record). Lyrically, the record deals with ideas of Faith, God, and one's "past" in a way that is neither preachy, or shallow. I think that tackling issues of faith can be the downfall of many artists, where their zeal (which isn't a bad thing) ends up trumping honesty and/or accessability. The listener is the "outsider"...and is left with a sort of "sermon" on what they're not doing "right." In the case of this record, Downey is able to balance the feelings of yearning, questioning, and worship in a way that draws the listener in, makes them feel comfortable, and never reaches a point where the listener can't relate. It's like sitting on the porch with someone and having a conversation...it's comfortable, and it's pretty far removed from having some sweaty guy in a cheap suit throwing 'hellfire" at your face. This quality, coupled with the music, makes "Pull The Moon" a great portrait of how good the singer/songwriter genre can be. Easily one of the best records of the year...it's a perfect mix of great vocals, beautifully crafted songs, and lyrics that display true honesty and emotion.

Buy this record...thank me later.

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