Heather Powell - A Haze of Grays and Blue
Other Can lounge jazz and soul be considered indie? That has been a question many of us in the music industry have been asking since the advent of Amy Winehouse and some of her counterparts like Duffy and Pony Boy. These artists walk a fine line, as for quite a while blues and do-wop were very pop indeed. In the 80s and early 90s, no one would have associated especially do-wop with indie music, but along came Winehouse and her crew, and now we're forced to re-evaluate. Heather Powell's new album "A Haze of Grays and Blue" doesn't get us any nearer an answer, unfortunately.

Sunshine and lollipops doesn't even come close to describing whatever is radiating out of all of Heather Powell's orifices at first glance. Chipper, cheery, backlit photos are all I can seem to find of her, and the music on her first album, "Believe it to Life", matches those images. "A Haze of Grays and Blue" is a little harder to read, however. Her vocals are still pretty damn sunshiny, but there is a new element of more diverse emotion in much of the album. Hence the name, I suppose.

No one can accuse Heather Powell of having a bad voice. She's clearly classically trained, and her website makes mention of the fact that she acts, is involved in musical theatre and is currently writing a musical. Unfortunately oftentimes in both her previous work and in "A Haze of Grays and Blue", her vocals lack emotion. It's clear with her lyrics that there is something there under the surface, but very rarely do her vocals connote that. The other consequence of this tightly reined vocal style is that the bluesy, emotive and potentially indie backing music doesn't match at all. From the first track, 'Unexpected,' this clash is noticeable. Honestly her backing singers sound more natural than she does.

'Black and White Thinking' has lyrics which show some more genuine feeling, and in this track Powell's vocals start to sound a bit more smoky and emotive, so that's progress, but she still doesn't seem to want to let go of her overly perfect musical theatre technique. 'Remember the Love' introduces a little of that coveted do-wop style to her music, but Powell's lyrics on this track are just silly and she once again seems to be getting in her own way with technique. This is the trend for most of the album; Powell gets almost to the point of a genuine-sounding blues, do-wop or lounge jazz song, but something holds her back. Whether it's too much training, fear of being vulnerable or something else, the mark is narrowly missed almost every time.

The album closes with a surprising triumph in 'See Me.' Here we finally see what true emotion looks like from Heather Powell. This is clearly a very personal song judging from the lyrics. Powell finally puts that hurt and emotion into her vocals, opens her heart and throat and just belts that puppy out. The tightly controlled technique goes out the window, and it's clear Powell is simply in the moment, singing her little heart out. It's beautiful to hear, and I really hope to see more of this from her. The do-wop and 80s-style lounge jazz works to support her on this track, and once she gets to the interlude she almost sounds like a Striesand or Midler. As a musical theatre buff, I'm sure that's what she's going for.

What makes a good song, whether indie or musical theatre, is not just flawless technique and an operatic voice. It's the ability to connote real emotion and feeling. Heather Powell seems finally to achieve this with her very last song on "A Haze of Grays and Blue", so I that one is worth a download on her CD Baby page at the very least. Feel free to stream the other songs on the album as well, as it's available in its entirety on Soundcloud.
3
Brutal Resonance

Heather Powell - A Haze of Grays and Blue

6.0
"Alright"
Spotify
Released 2015 by True Groove Records
Can lounge jazz and soul be considered indie? That has been a question many of us in the music industry have been asking since the advent of Amy Winehouse and some of her counterparts like Duffy and Pony Boy. These artists walk a fine line, as for quite a while blues and do-wop were very pop indeed. In the 80s and early 90s, no one would have associated especially do-wop with indie music, but along came Winehouse and her crew, and now we're forced to re-evaluate. Heather Powell's new album "A Haze of Grays and Blue" doesn't get us any nearer an answer, unfortunately.

Sunshine and lollipops doesn't even come close to describing whatever is radiating out of all of Heather Powell's orifices at first glance. Chipper, cheery, backlit photos are all I can seem to find of her, and the music on her first album, "Believe it to Life", matches those images. "A Haze of Grays and Blue" is a little harder to read, however. Her vocals are still pretty damn sunshiny, but there is a new element of more diverse emotion in much of the album. Hence the name, I suppose.

No one can accuse Heather Powell of having a bad voice. She's clearly classically trained, and her website makes mention of the fact that she acts, is involved in musical theatre and is currently writing a musical. Unfortunately oftentimes in both her previous work and in "A Haze of Grays and Blue", her vocals lack emotion. It's clear with her lyrics that there is something there under the surface, but very rarely do her vocals connote that. The other consequence of this tightly reined vocal style is that the bluesy, emotive and potentially indie backing music doesn't match at all. From the first track, 'Unexpected,' this clash is noticeable. Honestly her backing singers sound more natural than she does.

'Black and White Thinking' has lyrics which show some more genuine feeling, and in this track Powell's vocals start to sound a bit more smoky and emotive, so that's progress, but she still doesn't seem to want to let go of her overly perfect musical theatre technique. 'Remember the Love' introduces a little of that coveted do-wop style to her music, but Powell's lyrics on this track are just silly and she once again seems to be getting in her own way with technique. This is the trend for most of the album; Powell gets almost to the point of a genuine-sounding blues, do-wop or lounge jazz song, but something holds her back. Whether it's too much training, fear of being vulnerable or something else, the mark is narrowly missed almost every time.

The album closes with a surprising triumph in 'See Me.' Here we finally see what true emotion looks like from Heather Powell. This is clearly a very personal song judging from the lyrics. Powell finally puts that hurt and emotion into her vocals, opens her heart and throat and just belts that puppy out. The tightly controlled technique goes out the window, and it's clear Powell is simply in the moment, singing her little heart out. It's beautiful to hear, and I really hope to see more of this from her. The do-wop and 80s-style lounge jazz works to support her on this track, and once she gets to the interlude she almost sounds like a Striesand or Midler. As a musical theatre buff, I'm sure that's what she's going for.

What makes a good song, whether indie or musical theatre, is not just flawless technique and an operatic voice. It's the ability to connote real emotion and feeling. Heather Powell seems finally to achieve this with her very last song on "A Haze of Grays and Blue", so I that one is worth a download on her CD Baby page at the very least. Feel free to stream the other songs on the album as well, as it's available in its entirety on Soundcloud. Mar 18 2015

Layla Marino

info@brutalresonance.com
Writer and contributor on Brutal Resonance

Share this review

Facebook
Twitter
Google+
17
Shares

Buy this release

We don't have any stores registered for this release. Click here to search on Google

Related articles

Sturm Café

Interview, Jan 01 2006

Project Rotten - 'Freakshow'

Review, Sep 13 2010

Totemic - 'Continuous Cycle'

Review, Jul 13 2016

Deader - 'The Deadening'

Review, Jul 04 2018

Shortly about us

Started in spring 2009, Brutal Resonance quickly grew from a Swedish based netzine into an established International zine of the highest standard.

We cover genres like Synthpop, EBM, Industrial, Dark Ambient, Neofolk, Darkwave, Noise and all their sub- and similar genres.

© Brutal Resonance 2009-2016
Designed by and developed by Head of Mímir 2016