Jessica Callahan

Jessica Callahan

Blindstick Records, 2007

http://www.jessicacallahan.com/

REVIEW BY: Jason Warburg

ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED: 11/12/2007

You’d like to think talent always rises to the top.  You’d like to think that, and then you watch talentless trailer trash sell millions of records by hiring good producers and behaving badly enough to make headlines, and you wonder.  You wonder if a pure talent like Jessica Callahan can possibly rise above the walking disaster that is the music industry today.

Callahan is a piano-playing singer-songwriter who occupies the sweet spot between Michelle Branch and Carole King, building punchy full-band arrangements around her piano-driven singer-songwriter tunes.  And quite a band it is, including on this disc Mario Calire of the Wallflowers and a bevy of session aces like Matt Chamberlain, Grecco Burrato and Tim Pierce.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

It’s not hard to see why they’d sign on for this gig.  Callahan has a strong, rich voice and a real gift for melodic hooks -- such a gift that you can see where there would be a temptation to slick this music up and over-produce it.  Thankfully, that’s not the case here, as the arrangements for the most part stay airy and open and organic-sounding.

Opener “Better Change” kicks off with just Callahan and her piano building momentum until the band comes in at the chorus and pushes the song to the next level.  It’s a well-crafted track with some bite to the lyrics, and feels like a natural single.  “Close Moment” starts out more contemplative but blossoms nicely.  “Superhero” shines, exploring a rockier, more guitar-focused sound that plays up Callahan’s similarities with Branch – a compliment in my book.  “Get Out Of California” has a rolling Joni/Carole feel that’s a smooth fit for her voice; on “None Of This” she adds some soft blues guitar licks and background vocals to the mix and it only gets tastier.  Strings are the perfect complement to her piano-playing on the thoughtful ballad “Don’t Want,” while “Ever Since I” strips things down all the way to equally pleasing effect.

Honestly, the only real negative I can cite is the one-sheet that accompanied this disc.  While it’s both true and relevant that Callahan is blind, young, beautiful and extremely talented, pointing these things out in shouting capital letters on an amateurish promo sheet does not help her cause.  

That nitpick aside, this is a promising debut that should position Callahan to receive the attention she deserves -- strong songs sung with genuine passion and supported by a band of seasoned pros.

Rating: B+

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© 2007 Jason Warburg and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Blindstick Records, and is used for informational purposes only.