Ask Me Why is the first solo set from Rochester, NY-based Willa Finck. She’s a classically-trained violinist who plays with the Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra; here she taps her folk roots to deliver four soul-baring songs.
Given her background, it’s surprising that Finck’s violin doesn’t dominate the sound here. Rather, the set is piano-driven, with varied textures capably delivered by Sterling Cozza. The violin is there, but in a supporting role to Finck’s vocals. Nathan Kay’s trumpet rounds out the sound.
The EP feels intimate--almost as if the group are offering a private concert in your living room. They came by the sound honestly: the group set up in a large room and recorded the songs together. Some parts were added later, but basically this is a document of a live performance. This works brilliantly, as the musicians are able to play as an ensemble and let the songs breathe.
Fans of Joni Mitchell or Fiona Apple will find Ask Me Why familiar. Finck adds some new elements by strumming her violin in certain places, creating a mandolin-like effect. Her vocals are touching throughout; she really shines with her haunting backing vocal in “Cotton and Silk”. Kay’s trumpet work on “It’s More Than This” soars.
The musicians vary their approach throughout the EP. “I Never Know” starts with Finck’s bowed violin set against a Dave Brubeck-type piano pattern. As the track builds to its conclusion, the violin and trumpet weave back and forth beautifully.
The top pick here is the title track. Cozza’s piano starts dark and moody; the track picks up with some poppy piano elements supported by lovely trumpet lines. They take it up another notch for an instrumental section, venturing towards a Carole King piano-rock feel, with another terrific Kay trumpet solo, before bringing us back to earth.
Finck has more songs ready to record, and I look forward to the next set. Ask Me Why is a great starting point. Put it on in your living room and pretend she’s there with you.
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