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Friday, May 20, 2011

Megan Barbera - Zig Zag To The Sea

Megan Barbera - Zig Zag To The Sea
2010, Megan Barbera

If you're going to have a conversation about Megan Barbera it's going to start with her voice, which is an idiosyncratic blend of Edie Brickell and Sarah McLachlan.  Barbera's distinctive talent for songwriting is quickly evident, and her maudlin, melodic style evokes thoughts of Hope Sandoval.  This latter is either good or bad, depending on a listener's personal taste.  Barbera writes in imagery and rhyme, but can occasionally lose touch with the listeners at home.  With all of these thoughts in mind, let me introduce you to Barbera's debut album, Zig Zag To The Sea

Barbera opens with the mellow Americana/country sound and deep vulnerability of "Anywhere But Here".  In an age of computerized management of vocal quirks, Barbera's plaintive and unadorned vocal performance is a breath of fresh air.  From a songwriting perspective, this is the class of the album; subtle and nuanced without ever losing touch with the reality that lay behind it.  "Can't Love Yourself" is insightful and well-written, although Barbera tries to squeeze too much content into the melody at times.  This effort stands out, as the rushed feel this gives stands starkly at odds with the relaxed and melancholy air of the arrangement.  "Wasted" is a smooth melancholy country number with a hopeful side.  The melody on this tune is simply gorgeous; the sort to recur in your dreams.

"Shallow Well" highlights the comparison to Brickell and McLachlan above.  Barbera's vocal performance is unforgettable, although the song itself is too drawn out and slow for its own good.  Barbera recovers nicely with "A Little Hokey Pokey", a quietly catchy and fun bit of folk n roll that stands out.  Much like its name, Zig Zag To The Sea essentially meanders the rest of the way through pretty and understated songs that fail to make a big impression one way or the other.

Zig Zag To The Sea shows Megan Barbera's strengths and weaknesses as a songwriter and performer in bold lines.  At her best, Barbera is engaging and insightful, but she also appears to still be getting comfortable with herself as a songwriter.  Barbera gets so caught up in her own sense of musical melancholy at times that the she seems to forget the listener.  While artistically honest, Barbera occasionally loses her sense of song craft in the process.  Zig Zag To The Sea shows a lot of promise, but as always, promise comes to fruition with a lot of work.  There's more than enough potential evident on Zig Zag To The Sea to convince listeners to stick around to see how it all turns out for Megan Barbera.

Rating: 2.5 Stars (Out of 5)

Learn more at or on FacebookZig Zag To The Sea is available from as a CD or Download.  The album is also available via iTunes.

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