Vanessa Lynch: Walking Blind

Karmic Fury Records reviews Vanessa Lynch's debut album

Vanessa Lynch Walking BlindVanessa Lynch has been circling the spotlight for a few years now, surrounded by and performing with some of Wilmington’s brightest talents, while remaining somewhat under the radar. Until now. Lynch’s debut album Walking Blind is thoughtful, deliberate, and musically rich. Credit is due to her band, all accomplished musicians in their own right, who weave a rich tapestry around Lynch’s voice without overpowering her. Also noteworthy is the overall positive message, a theme of rising above adversity using the fuel of inner strength. Musically, most of the songs harken back to an earlier time, putting a modern spin on funk-spun soul.

The album opens with title track “Walking Blind.” The instrumentation is gorgeous, right from Luke Wilson’s first drum beat into Nicole Mancini’s violin intro. The song itself is catchy and Lynch’s voice is emotional but controlled, a task she makes seem easier than it is. The pop soul melody sets a nice tone for the rest of the album.

“Butterfly” starts with a slow jazz guitar riff from Michael Buckley and builds into chromatics that actually simulate the idea of flying. Lynch’s voice soars and benefits from backing vocals that invoke vintage girl groups like The Supremes. The butterfly imagery is effective in describing a relationship that continues to pull her back in, even as she pleads, “Give me the nerve to fly.”

Vanessa Lynch

Danny “Louis.” Thomas with Vanessa Lynch at the cd release show at Bourgie Nights

It’s probably appropriate that an album emphasizing self-worth and being true to yourself would follow an easy breezy song with the immediate sound of a rap verse. “Courage” works because the lyrical rhymes of Danny “Louis.” Thomas bring out the hip hop leanings in Lynch’s voice. The lyrics are a simple but effective homage to self-sabotage: “Courage won’t enter me and I know why, ’cause I won’t let it.”

“Glow” is the song that should appear in whatever happens to be the next girl power movie of the year, meaning that this is what young girls (or women, or really ANYONE) should be singing along to. “Girl, get your shine on…let your inner beauty show, and glow.” It doesn’t hurt that the song itself showcases some beautiful vocals, including some fantastic backing harmonies.

Lynch gives a nod to her adopted home in “Carolina.” The song is the most folky-sounding song on the album, an appropriate vehicle for ruminating on how moving to the south has changed her. As a fellow Yankee transplant, I can definitely relate to her lyrics expressing heartfelt love for her new home. “North Carolina has given so much to me,” indeed.

“My Flower” is adventurous musically in a way that seems to really bring out the rich emotion in Lynch’s voice, even as she navigates back and forth across a (very effective) time change. She flexes creatively on this song and her band follows suit. The motown sound throughout segues into a guitar solo at the end that downright blazes.

The ballad “Two Men” is so rife with sadness that the feeling of loss is palpable right from the beginning, thanks to a stirring piano intro by Dylan Linehan aided by some emotional violin playing from Mancini. When Lynch’s voice finally does float above the instruments, she allows herself to be vulnerable singing, “I’ve been told I’m a pillar of strength/ Well they don’t see me when I’m all alone.”

Vanessa Lynch

Crystal Fussell, Michael Buckley, Keith Butler Jr, Vanessa Lynch, and Taylor Lee performing at the cd release show

Nothing pulls a listener out of a sad funk like…funk. And the next two songs are downright funky. “Strange & New” has a beat and a bass line that, combined with Lynch’s outstanding vocals and harmonies, perfectly capture the lustful fun of a new love affair. The chorus really makes me want to dance, and there is a killer bass solo from Taylor Lee. “How Dare You” continues the dance trend while also revisiting the theme of empowerment. Lynch’s voice is powerful and full of feeling as she repeats the line “How dare you,” folding herself into what sounds like an old-school soul jam. Buckley swoops in at the end and delivers an exceptional guitar solo.

Lynch smartly ends on an upbeat note, but one that also showcases her creativity. “Shouldn’t Let Me Go” starts out on an upbeat note and then takes a turn into a dark and spooky bridge in the middle. Just when I think I’m going to get sucked into the piano-and-violin-heavy scary dark place, the sunny guitar and vocals rescue me and place me gently back into pop bliss. The song is catchy lyrically and melodically, and is a great finish to what is a strong debut album.

Vanessa Lynch has delivered some great music that is very much its own sound, a rarity in today’s over-homogenized market. After being up-and-coming for the past few years, Lynch has shown that she’s ready to arrive. Vanessa Lynch doesn’t just shine, she glows.

Walking Blind is available online on iTunes, Amazon, and all other major digital retailers, as well as locally in Wilmington, NC at Gravity Records and Steele Music Studios. You can keep up with Vanessa Lynch online at http://www.reverbnation.com/vanessalynch and https://www.facebook.com/vanessalynchmusic.

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Give the Gift of Local Music

2014 local releases and two not-to-be missed upcoming shows

2014 New Local Albums

four great picks from this year's local releases

Local music is a wonderful holiday gift for the music aficionado in your life, whether it’s a new release from your brother’s favorite band or an EP from a group that you’re sure will become his new favorite. The gift of music also supports the hard working people in the Wilmington music scene, many of whom have spent lots of time and money perfecting their art. It’s a win all-around!

Local music expert and Star News WAE blogger Brian Tucker put together a list of the huge number of homegrown albums that dropped in 2014. Click here for Parts 1 and 2 of the list. You can pick up most of these releases by contacting the band directly or visiting our favorite local record store, Gravity Records.

Tonight, December 6th, we recommend stopping by Bourgie Nights, where local favorites Mike Blair and the Stonewalls are celebrating the release of their much anticipated full-length debut. In addition, the opening act is local folk trio Stray Local, who put out a new release of their own in October. For $5 at the door, you get to hear two great Americana acts, and for a few dollars more you can take home two of the year’s most talked-about releases. Click here to check out the Facebook event.

Coming up on Wednesday, December 10th is a show we’re very excited about and also sort of sad about. One of our favorites, Dylan Linehan, is putting on a going away show before she makes the leap to Los Angeles. Her “rock popera” has been a unique and welcome element on the music scene, and we’re going to miss her terribly. Go see Linehan perform all new original songs while accompanied by a full band which, in itself, is an all-star team of Wilmington musicians including: Keith Butler Jr. (drums), Michael Buckley (guitar), Vanessa Lynch (vocals), Nick Simon (bass), Sean Howard (bass), Chris James (vocals), and Hannah Lomas (vocals). Opening acts Chris James and Vanessa Lynch are amazing as well, so get there early. Presented by CioneProStudio, tickets are $10 at the door, $7 in advance. Click here for the Facebook event and here for tickets.

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Dylan Linehan: Pericardium

Karmic Fury Records reviews Dylan Linehan's debut album Pericardium

Any fan of live music knows what it’s like to see a good show – not just a “cool, that was worth my 5 bucks at the door” kind of show, but a truly goosebump-inducing blow your mind kind of show. It’s the kind of show that keeps you up at night reliving it and sits fresh in your mind the next day. One of these shows for us was the first time we heard Dylan Linehan and her magnificent piano (click here for our review of that show). She’s continued to perform since then, and is now releasing her debut album, Pericardium, featured in our Karmic Fury Records album review series.

Album Artwork and Design by Heather Divoky

Pericardium is best viewed as a companion piece to Linehan’s live performance. The album is beautiful yet restrained. In order to appreciate the work that went into capturing her emotional energy in a medium like this, like a great Broadway musical, you really must really see and hear the live performance. The Broadway musical analogy is especially apropo, as Pericardium sounds like the soundtrack for a theatrical production. Linehan has scored student films and is also working on the score for a feature film with her father, Terry, and this sense of an underlying story is apparent on the album.

Pericardium opens with a thundering piano leading into “Tazmanian White”, a different kind of love song about a free spirit. The dramatic chorus will get stuck in your head, as it’s been in ours since we popped in the CD several days ago. The drums and well-placed backing vocals really flesh out the arrangement, which is pushed along by strong piano riffs throughout. Linehan’s vocals sound a little bit thinner than we’re accustomed to, one of the unfortunate side effects of studio compression, but the emotion shines through, especially when she really unleashes near the end against a backdrop of piano, electric guitar, and shouted background vocals. One part in particular reminds us of Kate Bush.

A hauntingly beautiful 25 second vocal interlude segues into our personal favorite track on the album “For Us”, which is probably also the song most likely to appeal to the mainstream sector. From beginning to end, the arrangement is breathtaking, with percussive, yet soft strings adding a lightness throughout the song that perfectly accompanies Linehan’s sweet vocals. The light pop song is simple and delicate and could easily make its way onto a movie soundtrack. By the time the song ends in a decrescendo of vocal harmonies and strings, we’re completely enamored. We can’t get enough of this song.

“Oh Fixation, Please Fix Me” starts off in a similar vein, before launching into a full out rock opera in the chorus, complete with passionate backing vocals and electric guitars. The lyrics pack a punch too, with lines such as “You won’t remember me, I’m just a happy memory for someone else to find.” Linehan keeps her verses sweet and subtle and then exudes force and fury in the choruses, her technical and emotional ranges both apparent as she addresses addiction. There is some nice electric guitar work in this one as well – the riffs are clean and effective without being too much, in addition to some more excellent string work.

The next song, “Fireside”, begins with a piano riff and big chorusy vocals that remind us of one of the more tender moments of a Tim Burton movie. Even at its sweetest, the song has an undertone of dark drama. In the bridge/chorus, a beautiful low cello helps escalate the song into a more upbeat but no less sweet apex before tapering off into an absolutely lovely and soft conclusion. “Forever I’m yours, and you’re mine”, indeed.

We have hardly a moment to recover before being launched into a slow cello solo that sounds downright sinister. Not exactly what one would expect from a song called “BFF”, the bitterness oozes out of every note in the first few slow lines before launching into full rock opera territory with help from more guitar and drums. She really lets loose on the vocals, too. “You could have treated me right…Is this what you wanted? You wanted a fight? Well now you got what you had comin’!” Zing.

At this point, the album shifts away from full band arrangements to more bare bones instrumentation, where it stays through the remaining songs. When we asked her about this transition, Linehan answered that it was indeed a deliberate decision intended to strip away the layers in order to get to the origins of it all, the “music within the music”. With only her voice, piano, and occasional subtle strings, “Carry On” is a tender testament of Linehan’s attention to emotional nuance. The perfectly executed vocal phrasing, sometimes almost a whisper and then rising to a plea and back again, is extremely effective. While Linehan sounds great with the band, she knows when to let the music speak for itself without any frills.

“Another Day Like Sunday” is another piano/vocal showcase with some nice theatrical lines that are almost playful and sing-songy if not for the underlying cynicism. She plays some great classical/theatrical piano in this song. By the final refrain, the song becomes a funeral dirge and the heartache in Linehan’s voice is apparent.

Luckily, we’re rescued from despair with the sweet sounding “Coupon Book” about the excitement and trepidation of a new love. Even here, however, Linehan and her piano don’t rest easy. “I could give you a coupon book for all the things I’d do for you, But we both know I only give favors on paper, It’s only ink in navy blue,” she whispers as the song winds down.

The album concludes with the funhouse carnival piano masterpiece that is “Medusa’s Zen Garden”. Over seven minutes in length, the piano work in this song is downright impressive. She also has some nice expressive vocals that escalate into what we can best describe as a “whoop”. The parts where she speaks the words in between echoing vocals make us feel like we’re at the crucial conclusion of an epic theatrical masterpiece. The urgency in both vocals and piano is apparent and effective. The lines, “I am not the girl I used to be. There’s a cage around my heart, you’ll never find the key!” are a fitting end to the album as a whole.

Pericardium is by definition a tough double layered membrane which covers the heart. This is the metaphor that ties all of the album’s songs together as Linehan allows her questions, emotions, stories, and music to flow through punctured holes in her pericardium. In her own words she explains: “In every song, there is the challenge of breaking through a wall, posing the questions of how we use our bodies as the ‘pericardiums’ for our souls. How do we hide our pain? How do we cope? How do we thrive and break down our walls of fear? Why do we build our walls to begin with, and what are they made of?” With her unique and theatrical style, Linehan can’t help but pierce through the pericardium of each listener. By the conclusion of the album, beware, for your heart may lay open and exposed.

For more information about Dylan Linehan, visit her website at: http://dylanlinehan.com

Musicians on Pericardium include:
Dylan Linehan: vocals and piano
David Easton: acoustic guitar, electric guitar, bass guitar
Joe Ristaino: drums
Lizz Gay: viola
Hillary Flowers: cello
Preston Luce: cello on “Carry On”
Lydia Meadows: violin
Vanessa Lynch: backing vocals
Dylan Fowler: backing vocals

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