REVIEW: Lauren Calve’s “Wildfire” Flexes Roots-Americana Muscle


This 7-cut EP features “Better Angels,” a melodic tune that slides into the nifty-blues style of “Shock Time,” that exemplifies Northern Virginia’s Lauren Calve’s glorious vocal diversity — attractive in both gears.

Wildfire – (drops June 23 – Independent) is interesting since Lauren has a distinctively raw voice when she needs it & a beautiful tone other times. The title track “Wildfire” possesses both traits. There’s an alt-country thread that runs through this, but Lauren’s all roots-Americana as she flexes her musical muscle. Rebellious? A tad. Some singers have a breezy wild grass on a hillside style, but Lauren’s more mud puddle hidden by sunlight.

What’s to like here? Her abandon, urgency, freewheeling somewhat folky attitude toward her performance. She sings certain lines & sounds like she’s eye-balling you with a wicked smile or is it seductive? This is what makes a performer worth watching.

Self-taught guitarist Lauren’s generous vocal acrobatics is what turns expressive yet simplistic lyrics into musical poetry. Lauren knows what words to accentuate & which not to. It all makes for an exciting listen. (This is not to be confused with the equally great song “Better Angels,” hit in 2005 by the late Lesley Gore).

Lauren’s vocal soars throughout & a highlight of her showcase. I don’t find Lauren sounding too much like many other female vocalists. She has a unique tone & even better – a wonderful way of putting it over.

Of course, while a title like “On & On,” is quite cliched & overused in the industry Lauren turns this track into a great example of “jazz” liberally mixed, stewed & stirred into roots music. Even though she was trying more for a Muscle Shoals feel. She possesses a rich soundscape of notes & phrasing. Lauren seems to use good imagery in her storytelling tunes.

While I’m not a big fan of singing about controversial, disagreeable, or at best debatable subjects — I have experienced artists taking stands & their audiences walking out. It’s a high ledge to gamble on. The bottom line is to get a message out, sell music & your shows.

Fortunately, Lauren seems to be well-balanced & doesn’t try to shove any political liver & onions down anyone’s throat. There are some misguided dabs but that comes with the territory. There’s a generous amount of optimism in Ms. Calve’s sometimes vulnerable performance. It isn’t all doom & gloom.

She does see-saw between polished & raw in equal doses though she isn’t Patti Smith by no stretch. For my ears, she doesn’t come on blues-heavy as Bonnie Raitt, but when she plays her guitar, I can hear the comparisons. She isn’t sweet & instantly recognizable as Emmylou Harris but there are moments when Lauren scrapes the vocal edge of Ten Wheel Drive’s Genya Ravan, Zephyr’s Candy Givens, 1994’s & Blue by Nature’s Karen Lawrence & Tracy Nelson.

Lauren Calve has her own absorbing style that’s uniquely her own.

The LP is available at Amazon & website:

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