Last updated on November 20, 2020
Being labeled “indie” can be a constricting thing for artists that are searching for solid footing. Avoiding traps such as this, The Singer and The Songwriter are solidly owning their own space in the folk genre. With an airy tone blending into this six song EP Directions, it is easy to hear where comparisons to the likes of Sara Bareilles came from. To be compared to vocalists like that could be a bad thing, if someone cannot deliver. Wonderfully, that is not the case here.
Rachel Garcia and Thu Tran are The Singer and The Songwriter. They each embrace their connection as a duo brilliantly. Written over the past year after a seventy-nine city tour across twenty-five states, the album was recorded at Hyde Street Studios in San Francisco with producer/engineer Scott McDowell (The Head and The Heart).
Embracing the songs that evolved out of this journey, “Wild Heart” kicks in with a light, airy vibe, bringing to mind every childhood summertime in the country. A stellar example of painting with sound, listeners are invited on a journey with this band from California. The duo blends multicultural influences into sounds that wrap into the soul. It is easy to resonate with “Give Love”: doesn’t this song speak to us all? Garcia delivers a vocal performance that finds the strength of Tran’s guitar to lean upon. Stellar and sweet, this one is an auditory vision of love.
Halfway through the six songs, “Anywhere, Everywhere” is a touring musician’s life for the rest of us to enjoy. I love the production here–it is simple and structured, allowing the lyrical simplicity to breathe. Finding a way to bring the road to listeners, “Anywhere, Everywhere” is that life down to fast food and kindness of strangers. Darren Johnston’s trumpet really shines here, giving punctuation to the simple beauty of the song. Uncluttered and unburdened by too much production, each moment is a road trip into the unknown. None the worse for wear, listeners can only appreciate this by hanging arms out of the windows, soaring.
The Singer and the Songwriter explore these same ideas in the album artwork from Danielle Krysa. Mixed media on paper, the album art brings an augmented vision to the music that feels like a watercolor painting: bright and soft, a blend of colors, with light brushstrokes making the impressions.
Many argue that serendipity brings people and situations together for unknown reasons– “Worried No More” questions when and how that happens. Jazz elements come together in a twist-and-shout feel on one of the best tracks of the release. This song provides a playground for Garcia to sing around, all wrapped in Tran’s guitar. “Show Me The Mountain” is that cinematic performance most bands could only dream of. Layering Garcia’s restrained vocal delivery on drums from Aaron Kierbel, this music is exotic and hypnotic. The track is a masterpiece in every way.
Heading out of the record, it is easy to see how a return to the beginning is what feels right for The Singer and The Songwriter. It is delightful to hear Asian influences in “Apparent Brightness” subtly commingling with hispanic rhythmic patterns. Gerry Gross on piano and Mia Nardi-Huffman on violin are not to be forgotten on this release as well. This whole album was done with a gentle hand in San Francisco.
Wrapping the ears around this collection of music over and over again is highly recommended. With each musical vision on each track, the unfolding of a journey begins. Each time around brings to light more and more to appreciate in the sonic layering techniques.–Lisa Whealy