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The Graham Weekly Album Review #1637

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Rachel Goodrich
by George Graham

(independent release As broadcast on WVIA-FM 4/13/2011)

Type casting is rately very fair, but it's what self-styled music critics like to do, under the rationalization that it helps the audience get an easier understanding of the music at hand. But it's also nice when artists break those archetypes. This week we have a good example with the enjoyable light-hearted eponymous new recording by Miami-based singer-songwriter Rachel Goodrich.

The stereotypes among female pop performers include the sensitive folkie, the rock or blues belter, the soul queen, the punk rocker, the vacuous media-pumped pop star, and the jazzy chanteuse. Lately, we have seen another interesting facet appear, women who look to earlier eras and perhaps to theatrical or vaudeville music for their influence. Among the latter are April Smith, the members of Katzenjammer and the Puppini Sisters. Twenty-seven-year-old Rachel Goodrich is an interesting hybrid. She's got that kind of whimsical vaudeville undercurrent, but she's also a rocker, a bit of a chanteuse and lyrically, a kind of confessional folkie. She's got a great voice with the technique and clarity of a good chanteuse, but with some retro-pop kickiness.

Rachel Goodrich the CD is her second release, following her 2008 debut called Tinker Toy, which got a lot of favorable reviews. A couple of her songs were used in some commercial TV series, and one was used in a commercial for Crayola. The new CD was produced for the most part by Greg Wells, who has worked with artists like Rufus Wainwright, Jamie Cullum and others. Wells understands and captured well the kind of wry, eclectic blend that Ms. Goodrich personifies. Thrown into the musical mix are ingredients like ukulele, kazoo, whistling, a trombone, plus things like cheesy old synthesizer sounds and a pump organ.

It's all driven by Ms. Goodrich's appealing songs that profit nicely from the eclectic musical treatment. Most of them are love songs, and several have a rather old-fashioned quality to the words. But there are also some lyrics with a bit of a twist.

The rather short 38-minute CD moves at a good pace, containing 11 tracks, mostly compact pop songs that don't overstay their welcome, but at the same time have interesting ingredients that take them to sometimes unexpected places. While there are three different drummers who appear, including producer Wells, and a couple of bass players, most of the instruments are played by Ms. Goodrich herself, showing her versatility.

Opening is a track called Morning Light, which sums up the clever , eclectic pop texture of the recording. It has a distinctly retro sound but with a good deal of imagination, lyrically as well as musically. <<>>

Also a lot of fun is a track called Na Na Na which is all over the place in its ideas, showing a bit of the good-natured theatricality of some of Ms. Goodrich's music. <<>>

Fire is a track that goes in another musical direction, showing a different facet of Ms. Goodrich's music. It has kind of down-in-the-swamp blues sound, though with the imaginative quality that marks most of Ms. Goodrich's music. <<>>

A bit more toward the conventional sound of a singer-songwriter is a piece called Let Me Go, which takes the form of a piano ballad about heartbreak. <<>>

The retro vaudeville or English music hall sound returns on Hold On, a particularly charming track. <<>> It comes complete with some simulated tap-dancing. <<>>

But the epitome of the vaudeville sound is Light Bulb, with ukulele, trombone, and a kazoo, along with some outwardly sunny lyrics. <<>>

Probably the catchiest tune on the album is Easier Said Than Done, a somewhat complicated love song that even has the musicians on the session whistling along. <<>>

The CD ends with Popsicles one of the more ruminating tracks on this otherwise upbeat album. But still, it shows imagination. <<>>

Rachel Goodrich the second release by the Miami-based singer-songwriter and multi-instrumentalist is a charming album by a clever and resourceful artist who comes up with an intriguing and eclectic blend of vaudeville, retro rock, appealing vocals and astute lyric writing. They combine to make an impressive album that is also a lot of fun. The musicianship and the arranging are first-rate and the CD, I think, hits just the right balance of being creatively quirky without turning into a novelty record.

Our grade for audio quality is an A-minus. The dynamic range is a lot better than many contemporary CDs, with the drums and percussion having a nice impact and a decent ebb and flow between loud and soft. But some of the individual instruments lack clarity, and Ms. Goodrich's vocals are not as warm or immediate as they could be. But overall, it rewards play on a good sound system.

Rachel Goodrich joins some of the other women on the scene who are going for a kind of pre-rock retro sound, or at least drawing on that kind of influence. But Ms. Goodrich broadens the sound to include a bunch of other ingredients and succeeds very nicely.

(c) Copyright 2011 George D. Graham. All rights reseved.
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