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The Graham Album Review #2073

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The 456: Simple Songs
by George Graham

(Mascot Label Group as broadcast on WVIA-FM 6/16/2021)

Singer-songwriter duos have long been part of the music scene. Often the two members will do vocal harmonies. But there have been number of co-ed duos in which the woman does most of the vocals, and guy is usually the instrumentalist and sometimes the main songwriter. Examples include Everything But the Girl, Professor and Maryann, and Dave’s True story, to name a few. This week, we have an interesting co-ed duo, who have released their debut album. They call themselves The 456, and their new recording is titled Simple Sings.

The 456 consists of a pair of music veterans with extensive individual careers who got together in a somewhat unlikely manner, to form the 456. The name comes from the number of miles between the places where the two of them live. They are David Wolfert, a veteran songwriter whose compositions have been recorded by Whitney Houston, Barbra Steisand, and Dolly Parton, among others. The other half of the duo is Canadian singer-songwriter Natasha Alexandra Biljetina, who has recorded under the name NLX. According to the group biography, they happened to be in a club in the East Village in New York, and apparently hit it off quickly. And despite the 456 miles separating them, struck up a songwriting collaboration, which resulted in their new debut album. The material consists of mostly intimate arrangements, with Wolfert on guitar – mostly acoustic – and NLX on the keyboards and lead vocals throughout. There are some band tracks, though the credits don’t show any other musicians. The lyrics are fairly typical pop song fare, about relationships, current and past, but with some good turns of phrase. Most tend to be a little on the melancholy side. They are the kinds of songs that most people will be able to relate to, given Wolfert’s experience writing songs for pop stars.

The album opens with Slips Away a good example of the group’s tasteful pop song writing. It’s about the end of an affair or relationships, and a consideration of the memories slipping away. <<>>

Little Victories looks for those little victories in an otherwise less than perfect world. <<>

Along the same lines is one of the album’s highlights, So Long, in which the title phrase is used in both senses, a length of time and the saying of goodbye, with a more produced arrangement. <<>>

The song Lonely features rather uplifting lyrics, offering a shoulder to cry on, and other support for someone who has become lonely, through one circumstance or another. <<>>

The other side of the same situation is the basis of the song When I Fall, a plea for help and understanding. It’s fairly typical pop song fare, but it’s intelligently done, and nicely sung by NLX. <<>>

NLX’s keyboard is central to another introspective song, Armor a plea for honesty.

Wolfert’s experience writing hit songs for pop stars is apparent in the track called One Good Reason, which does is a bit cliched. <<>>

The album ends with another of its highlights, Rewind a piano ballad about wishing for a chance for a re-do of something that led to a breakup. <<>>

Simple Songs by the duo The 456 consisting of David Wolfert and Natasha Alexandra Biljetina, a/k/a NLX, is a pleasing, intelligent intimate album of high quality pop songs, by a duo with a combined 50 years in the music business, working together for the first time, collaborating over the 456 miles that separates them. The songs are outwardly simple, and the production scaled back, but there’s lots content and depth to their music. It’s unclear whether the duo worked remotely or got together in the studio to record, but the album has a tight-knit quality.

Our grade for sonics is close to an “A.” The mix is clean with what effects that are used being employed when appropriate. As usual, the dynamic range, the preservation of differences between loud and soft moments, is mediocre at best.

Co-ed songwriting duos have a long history in music. The 456 represent a worthy addition to the roster.

(c) Copyright 2021 George D. Graham. All rights reserved.
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