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Issue: April 2010

A Comfortable Debut

Audrey Cecil
Audrey Cecil (One Horse Records)

I had a discussion about singers with a friend who was born and raised in Canada. She found Johnny Cash atrocious, abysmal. Bob Dylan was even worse. Why? They just can’t sing, she proclaimed with a tone that deemed me an idiot for even asking. Their voices sounded like they bubbled up out of a tar pit.

I countered with this: in America, it’s more about the song than the singer. To steal a phrase from Uncle Walt (Whitman, not Disney), we sound our barbaric yawps over the rooftops of the world, and those yawps are often enclosed in melodies that are pulled from the depths of the heart and gut, no matter if the singer is a grunty-voiced male or a woman with the tones of an angel choir.

In the impressive debut release from Louisville’s Audrey Cecil, we get the Uncle Walt’s yawps, though not as barbaric. We get the kinds of good songs Americans are known for. To be sure, she doesn’t have the lovely, heart-fluttering voice that you might expect from a female singer-songwriter. But it does have a simplicity, an old flannel shirt comfort that conveys the emotions behind each song.

Cecil’s debut opens with an invocation of sorts with “Song From Me,” an appropriate beginning because it is one of the songs that takes a tour of our experiences. We’ve all been in the place where we’ve been discarded, as Cecil states, like a “shirt that fits too tight.”

Next, Cecil sharpens her claws with “Games You Play,” rich in metaphors describing the schmuck she’s trying to cast out of her life (“you’re just a pissed-off song in 4/4 time”). Cecil relaxes with some old-school folk-country blend in “Up or Down,” then skips over into all kinds of childhood memories in the darkly sentimental “Four.”

There’s a celebration of the city’s nightspots in “Louisville Night,” and (right before the epilogue containing an acoustic version of the opening track) a fitting wrap-up called “Simple Song,” which blends acoustic guitar, mandolin, some dreamy piano, spare percussion, and a few lines of lyrics. It’s a reminder of the simplicity of American songs, and how that simplicity leaves lots of room for beauty.

Here’s hoping young Audrey Cecil brings us more of that simplicity and comfort.

Get comfy at www.audreycecil.com.

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