With a first listen the production sounded tinny on the acapella intro of “Feelin’ Single,” but…when the band charged in and NY’s Megg Farrell revved her vocal engine the song kicked like a mule. Megg has a highly polished vocal for the old fashioned-oriented songs she sings. That may be a drawback for aficionados and traditionalists but give her a chance.
The musicians and producer Jeremiah Rosenthal have produced a tight upbeat track. As for the introductory music (maybe they intended it that way) – Megg’s fingerpicking/smoky café blues and western swing 9-track Megg Farrell & and Friends LP (released April 5th) – has the goods. This LP makes a joyful noise. Good saxophone, a deep resounding bass and you’ll walk away humming — you are duly warned.
I couldn’t find a reliable musician breakdown. The CD/PR lists no info. Members of Megg’s highly proficient band are Pete Matthiessen, Kells Nohlenberger and Chris Gelb. Megg’s history is a hybrid – bluegrass, country, jazz, riot grrrl, unorthodox rock, indie scene, and Euro-genres. Quite a stew.
A strum of a banjo and Megg’s pristine vocal provides sincerity and a sound presentation respectful of the genre she performs. No posturing. No showboating. Lots of energy. The magic in “Lovesick Harmony,” is Megg – she takes a vintage tune and modernizes it. It isn’t lost on me – this song is a beautiful original. Megg and her female backup singers’ lasso one hell of a melodic hook. Its incendiary guitars and machine gun-like beat all produce vitality.
3rd track: in a western swing style Megg travels top speed down a country road with hair flying behind her. A fiery harmonica swims below the surface while a banjo and drums drive hard. “New Orleans Waltz,” is a spine-chiller workout. Songs are potent and powered with many musical colors tossed from instruments with excellent invigorating arrangements.
“When I Learned to Sing,” slows dramatically, but Megg’s vocal is still a charm. A near-lullaby tone with a fairytale touch. Megg’s voice is instrumental in itself. Her notes squeezed and held, twists and sustain — all with proficiency. Run this through your ears and let your ears smile with a voice not overpowering just powerful.
Twangy guitars, a 1-2 beat goes into a vintage area. Megg’s voice here — a 1940’s chanteuse style – Patti Page, Julie London, Peggy Lee via Reba McIntyre and Loretta Lynn. The words to “New York Love Song,” are intriguing. It’s lyrical storytelling with a buzz of harmonica, bottom-heavy bass, and splendid vocal. One word describes it: cool.
Up next and slow — Emmylou Harris’ “Tulsa Queen.” Megg’s sad moody ballad vocal is thick and delicious. The guitar strums and male back up warms the melody. The sting of the high hat accentuates and Megg shows new voice diversity. A mournful harmonica aids the melodic guitar. Their runs don’t go into the ears as much as into the heart. Covers of songs is a good way to show valuable interpretive skills. Maria Muldaur covered this Gram Parson’s song and Megg Farrell does “Ooh Las Vegas,” equal justice. An upbeat blistering track played with high octane fuel. The lead guitar and Megg’s voice – unadorned. Both add frosting to this dessert of a song.
A quirky intro and Megg begins slowly as if she were whispering words into your ear. A syrupy drip of a blues with a yearn of guitar and sax. “Blues in the Womb,” slides into position. The band is like watching kindling start to ignite all the bigger pieces of wood. Megg is in good blues form. Swampier, sexier and it purrs. Another slow tune closes. “If I Were a Woman,” is well-sung, nothing special but it does leave you wanting to hear more of Megg Farrell. A stripped-down tune with teasing instruments, a powerful bolero vocal buildup. It has swagger in its arrangement. This is the Megg Farrell magic and it’s all rooted in originality from a seed of many traditions.
I’m going to keep my eye on this garden to see what else Megg Farrell may grow. The LP art is a 4-color portrait in vintage style. Available through Megg’s Bandcamp site and CD Baby.