Michelle Renee has one of those voices that you probably won’t be forgetting anytime soon after you hear it. Haunting, layered, powerful and thick are a couple of words that came to mind when I started listening to her recent album entitled Reflections. Reflections is an eight-song album that not only features an excellent singer but a rich surplus of instrumentation. Sheralyn Wellman (back-up vocals), Brendan Gosson (violin), R. Aaron Walters (piano, electric guitar), Samuel Roux (bass) and Gavin George (drums) chipped in to contribute a wide array of sounds that are quite diverse. There are elements of bluegrass, folk, country, rock and pop. Some of the music reminded me of Dave Matthews Band but I actually preferred the songs that felt loose and almost dreamlike.
All you need to do is hit play to know what I’m talking and let “Lullaby” take you over. The song starts off with an acoustic guitar and Renee's voice and to tell you the truth I would have been ok with that combo throughout the whole song but I didn’t mind one bit when the other instrumentation was introduced. Everything was subdued and really left space for her vocals to shine through. It was a great introduction that showcases why Renee is an exceptional singer.
Another highlight for me was the very next song entitled “Crashing Down.” The music starts off with a beautiful combination of waltz style piano and a crying violin. Renee’s lyrics are deep pertaining to existential dilemma. She sings, “ Scattered my thoughts flow, plotting and planning, running on high I sprint to the future searching for answers that may never come.” As the song progresses, it gets more intense and dramatic but doesn’t go overboard.
I feel pretty confident in saying “Surrender” was the centerpiece of the album. The seven-minute song is the most non- traditional and is all the better for it. It starts off with loose instrumentation that is breaking apart at the seams. A gust of wind could blow it over and all that really is holding it up is Renee’s voice. The song moves slow and steady until the huge change at five minutes in. Good stuff all around.
Renee sounds best at her most intimate and when the songs flirt with some sense exploration. The songs I previously mentioned all do this quite successfully. A couple of the other more upbeat jam band type songs didn’t sound as original and didn’t focus on her strongest qualities. When looking at the whole album there are only minor missteps and overall is a very enjoyable experience. Renee is a certified talent and I hope to hear more from her soon.
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