Helene Cronin – Landmarks
Texas’ own Helene Cronin who I am familiar with still possesses her strong sincere voice & though some may say she’s all country I think Helene (vocals/bgv) is an accomplished chanteuse with class. Lots of class. She can sing anything. Her opening tune “Yesterday’s Heavy,” is a highly polished powerhouse.
Helene’s 12-cut; 44-minute Matt King produced (guitar/keys/effects/vocals) Landmarks (Drops Feb 3–Independent) should be on a major label. Pristine, strong material with phrasing, tonality & range. She understands what she sings & the lyrics are as sophisticated as her showcase. I’m not surprised.
“Just a Woman,” features 4 other singers – Wendy Moten, Vicki Hampton, Shelly Fairchild & Heidi Newfield. It’s reminiscent of the intense Eleanor McEvoy song “Only a Woman’s Heart.” Recorded by Ms. McEvoy & Mary Black then Mary with Emmylou Harris.
From that song jump to “You Do,” an exceptionally beautiful number. Marvelous song. Helene’s debut was only in 2019. I thought she had a deep repertoire. Some songs may be country but Ms. Cronin, unlike the many commercial-mainstream sugar-coated pop country singers — isn’t afraid to stir within the layers of a broken heart to peel back the skin of melancholy melodies.
Pugilists who want to win a fight have to get in close & risk-taking punches – just to get one of their own in. This is what sad country music is all about – like taking some sadness to get one of your own moments of happiness in.
Getting closer to the alt-country Helene takes a stool in a bar for “What Do You Lean On.” She doesn’t go down a cliché riddled road. It’s a well-conceived lyric & melody. Sung in a penetrating, disciplined, friendly scolding manner — “something strong enough to hold you up…” Nice simple country-flavored line open to interpretation. The fluid Byrds-like chiming guitars is infectious.
On “Your Cross,” Helene’s voice is like oil paint on a new brush as she strokes long through its ambitious driving melody. Ambitious, that’s it — that alone describes Helene Cronin. I hear Reba McIntyre sing “What They Didn’t Build,” an ass-kicking song performed with guts & grit by Helene. She succeeds with gnarling guitars. Maybe she’s invented country grunge. What a message this tune conveys.
This is one of the best CDs of 2023 – no doubt. No Doubt.
Musicians – Bobby Terry (acoustic guitars/banjo/steel guitar/mandolin), Byron House (electric & upright bass), Kenny Vaughn (electric guitars/12-string electric), Jerry Roe & Paul Eckberg (drums) with musicians on “Just a Woman,” — Todd Locke (keys/pads/Hammond B3), Emily Nelson (cello) & Chris Powell (drums).
Highlights – “Yesterday’s Heavy,” “Make the Devil,” “Just a Woman,” “Landmarks,” “What Do You Lean On,” “Halfway Back To Knoxville,” “Your Cross,” “Between Me & the Road,” “You Do” & “What They Didn’t Build.”
Blue-lit Dripping Springs Festival & standing image courtesy of Helene’s website. CD cover photo by Greg Thomason. CD @ https://www.helenecronin.com/