Saturday, June 6, 2015

Album review: Not so Black and White by Rachel Potter

Full disclosure: a while back I decided that I was going to stop doing album reviews. Out of everything I write, album reviews take me the longest to complete. Plus there's been some debate about whether album reviews are still relevant or not that factored into this decision. I've clearly changed my mind on this issue. This album being one of the reasons why - this is honestly one of the best albums I've heard in a while. I knew I had to write about it. Even more so in reading all of the responses to what is now being referred to as SaladGate. I'm not going to waste time getting into all of that right now, except to say that I feel like Keith Hill's comments were blown out of proportion and that most people completely missed the valid point he was making. We need to do a better job of supporting female artists. Period. If you ask me, there are three key ways to do that. Buy their music. Go to their shows. Talk about them.

So with those things in mind, I'm going to make a point of highlighting as many different female artists as possible from here on out. There's so many women making great music right now. Rachel Potter being one of them. If you've never heard of Rachel Potter, she was on X-Factor a couple of years ago and has performed on Broadway. You listen to her sing and you understand how she got there. There's no beating a Broadway-caliber voice, in my opinion. They voices have an excitement in them that captures you and Rachel is no exception. Not so Black and White is her first full length country album and was released about three months ago. Now, country music has always been present in my life, but I didn't start really loving it until high school. This was in the late '90s/early '00s, a great time for women in country music. Women like Faith Hill and Shania Twain, Martina McBride and Sara Evans, Lee Ann Womack and Leann Rimes - all making waves in the genre. Not to mention Reba, Trisha and Wynonna. It was kind of a golden age for women. Why am I bringing this up? Easy. Listening to Not so Black and White throws me right back to that time. 

It's a very strong album. Honestly, it's kind of hard for me to wrap my head around the fact that this is a debut album. This tells me that Rachel has a very clear vision of who she is as an artist and what she wants to say as an artist. This is something that I feel a lot of singers struggle with, particularly in the beginning of their careers. Sometimes it take a while for an act to find their true voice, but not here. This album feels very real and genuine to me. It seems honest in a way that an average album isn't. The lyrics are solid throughout and downright clever at times. Musically speaking, there's some really lovely playing on here. Great production; her voice is never overshadowed by the music. Although with a voice like hers, I'm not sure that's even possible. This woman's got some pipes, is what I'm saying. This brings me to my next point about the control Rachel has over her voice. Sometimes people who are capable with singing with this much power over-sing for no other reason than they can. Just because you can blast out a vocal doesn't mean that you should. There are, of course, times when it's warranted. Some lyrics simply demand to be belted out, but others require a soft touch. A good singer can hit the notes. A great singer can sing at many different levels. But it's a special kind of singer that knows when and how hard to push. Who knows when and how much to pull back. Rachel Potter is one of those singers. She sings these songs the way they need to be sung. It makes listening to them that much more enjoyable. 

I am going to address each song individually so anyone interested in that can keep reading. If you just wanted a short read, well, this might be goodbye for now. Your homework? Do your ears a favor and buy this album. It'll make them happy and, really, who doesn't want happy ears?