Wednesday, 10 February 2010
Album review: Simone DeBlasio - Rolling With Thunder
'Rolling With Thunder' is Simone DiBlasio's fourth album since her debut 'Ablemarle Ave.' in 2001. Hailing from Los Angeles, California, DeBlasio describes her music as 'Folk/Americana songs with a pure storytelling essence'. Below is a track-by-track guide to Rolling With Thunder.
Rolling With Thunder - Cars are rolling past and an eerie, crawling tone is stepping into the mix. The harmonies are almost dissonant, clashing slightly but in a good way before merging nicely into the opening acoustic guitar riff. It's a strange composition, especially for a title track let alone the first track, as the riff fades away into nothingness and it's more of an instrumental prelude. A little disappointing for song number one, as I'm eager to hear DeBlasio's voice from the off.
Remember You - My faith is soon restored; the vocals are almost child-like but in a cutely naive way and the lyrics match this vulnerability. The guitar arpeggios are equally delicate in the background as the song slowly eases along. It's short and sweet, ending with tweeting birds in the background, making me feel just summery enough to forget the cold reality outside.
Gone - DeBlasio is a fan of the sound-effects, and once again I hear footprints and a car engine starting before the guitar kicks in; it's adding to the 'story-telling' dimension. The guitar is this time busier and the vocals more intense, and I love what the second acoustic guitar is doing, dancing up and down the neck. The backing vocals really add something, which is nice because such a minimal track is crying out for some texture. As predicted, the track ends with tyres screeching; "I'm already gone, gone."
Longest Ride - I'm not sure if I like the passing cars sound effect; it feels slightly over-used but is different at least. The slide guitar in this track is cool and the wailing harmonica beside it really drags at some deep-Southern blues outfit. I can't help feeling that the vocal performance is slightly weaker than on other tracks, but this is saved by the guitar work.
Last Thing - A splatter of conversation introduces the next track, again adding to the story-telling themes evident in DeBlasio's songs, creating a sense of mystery. The music is much the same; Folk-style riffs and a vocal line without much depth but I do really like the addition of backing vocals. The track is sandwiched between sound-effects, ending this time with a bottle smashing and some distant wooping/chatting. Maybe I'm missing something, but it doesn't really strike me as a busy, party song and the smashing bottle slightly confused me, as if DeBlasio is trying to place the listener at a party or gathering although the lyrics don't really lend to that. It's a nice song, but I'm not sure the sound effects fit.
Calling - Coins are dropping into the pay-phone; the dial-tone is slightly audible as "Do you hear me calling" rings out in the vocals and this seems more appropriate. The acoustic guitar in the background is gentle and I like the chord progression; it's simple but effective and the layered backing vocals again add a certain depth. When the strings sidle into the mix it's something I wasn't expecting at all, and was a pleasant surprise. This is a favourite off of the album for me; the track shows signs of rising and falling and has been written with thought and a lot of attention.
One Night - The acoustic guitar work in this track doesn't sound as professional as it could do, perhaps the part needs to be simplified or a more experienced player brought in for the record. It fits really nicely alongside the vocals and overall feel of the song, however I felt it wasn't quite up to the standard that DeBlasio is pushing for. Now I've had a taste of the cello in the previous track, I'm dying for it to creep in at the beginning of the second verse and I'm sensing an emptiness that could so easily be filled as in the track before.
Final Call - The penultimate track on the album begins with falling rain and windchimes rattling gently in the breeze, before the acoustic guitar fades into the mix. The vocals sound more believable and with a lot more passion which is nice. I'm teased once more with the promise of strings at the beginning of the second verse, and was almost disappointed when they disappeared as quickly as they came but, having delved deeper into the song, can really appreciate their sparse presence. The spacing is really nice and really makes the track. The guitar-work on the ending is cool too.
Remains - I've arrived at the final track of the album and, although I haven't been blown away, can really see a stage for DeBlasio with a small, appreciative audience really captivated by her folky-story-telling ways. The riff is cool and upbeat, the vocals equally so, and I like the second guitar's subtle picks at the end of each line. There's not a lot of establishment between the verses and the choruses musically but the vocals ensure I know where I am and they are again more believable in this track. It's a nice ending to a simple, quiet and narrative album.
If you enjoyed my review and would like to hear more from Simone DeBlasio or to find out where she is playing next, please check out her Myspace page. 'Rolling With Thunder' is available at CD Baby, or you can follow the links on her website.