Katey Laurel - From Here2011, Roaring Twenties Records
Katey Laurel has come a long way since her 2008 debut album, Upstairs, Downstairs. Showing a gift for songwriting and a folky/pop style ala Joni Mitchell, Carly Simon or Jewel, the album was a stellar introduction to a young talent. Laurel waited three years, but returns with From Here. Laurel has made the transition from folky pop music to Triple-A artist with From Here. This transition required a step backward to move forward, as this bigger sound is a more difficult fit with Laurel’s highly personal lyric style. But Laurel proves she’s got the goods by making it work on From Here.
From Here opens with "Begin Again", blending the dark melancholy of a relationship nearing its end into the upbeat sound of new life and hope. You can hear the velvet strains of a country song in this number, but the dark-to-light pop feel works well. Laurel's voice is sweet and soft; full of its own velvety power but gentle in its touch. "Everything I Love" is a sweet, 1970's pop singer/songwriter confection with mild pep. The quietly catchy melody is appealing, and Laurel is convincing in her sentimentality. "The Wheel" casts the cycle of a relationship from start to finish in song; from the first stir of emotions to the emptiness in its wake. This is a great bit of subdued pop songwriting; catchy, articulate and real.
"From Here" features Laurel in her best voice, enlivening a somewhat nondescript number that holds its place in the middle of the album. "Somebody Like You" is a solid love ballad featuring the staple sound of a radio program such as Delilah. “Blue Sky’s Comin’” steps up to mid-tempo pop, but it are as if the spark that drove the first three songs on the album has been subdued in the middle of From Here. Laurel's voice is as pretty as ever, but the middle of the album lacks that special quality that Laurel is able to bring out from time to time. "Piece Of The Moon" takes steps in reviving the light, but Laurel doesn't really get back there until the album's closing track, "My Funny Boy". Here, Laurel is at her charming best in a lovey-dovey jazz ballad.
From Here shows off Katey Laurel's vocal and songwriting talents nicely, but also displays an inertial tendency that might wear on some listeners. While focusing on the ups and downs of love, Katey Laurel speaks from the heart in an honest voice; singing in a sweet, semi-conversational style that's party story-teller and part confessional. Musically, the album is incredibly static. This is good in that Laurel's sound is appealing to the ear, but the lack of any real dynamic shifts on From Here may not sit well with all listeners. Laurel's songwriting has certainly progressed over the past few years. From Here, at its best, displays the remarkable songwriter that Katey Laurel can be, but also shows the struggle of a talented young artist still learning what she's capable of.
Rating: 3.5 Stars (Out of 5)
Learn more about Katey Laurel at www.kateylaurel.com or www.myspace.com/kateylaurel. From Here is available from Amazon.com as a CD or Download. The album is also available via iTunes.