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After listening to Dana Falconberry’s Oh Skies of Grey several times and seeing pictures of her sitting in a field quietly considering a blade of grass…
…it’s hard not to fall for the woman just a little bit. She was even kind enough to draw me a neat little picture of a tree sitting underneath the moon along with my review copy of the new album. And, ultimately, Falconberry’s newest creative endeavor proves to be one that can be listened to over and over again without losing a bit of its cute, yet passionate charm.
The first thing heard is Dana introducing the very poppy and happy opener of “Someday” by humming a lulling harmony with backup vocalists Gina Dvorak and Erika Maassen, the trio’s voices complementing each other very well. These creative and musical harmonies persist throughout the album, and liven up songs that may otherwise lack some of that luster needed to really drive a piece home. “Someday” is a song filled with demonstrations of Falconberry’s musicality through intricate, three-part harmonies that rise and fall against one another, pleasingly going exactly where your ear wants them to go. The entire song features a persistent rising-and-falling harmonic undercurrent that is just lovely, and kicks off the album perfectly.
Continuing from the strong opening track, the listener is treated to an album that proves to be highly-cohesive from beginning to end. Throughout the work, Falconberry throws in unexpected transitions between tracks, such as the one in-between “Satin Dress” and “Birthday Song,” where her skills at harmonizing allow for a seamless modulation from one song to another. Elsewhere, the eminently memorable tune of the first song is repeated. These small musical tidbits give the album a consistency that allows the whole thing to come together as a singular work, as opposed to simply a collection of songs, and rewards repeated listens, encouraging familiarity with the album as a whole.
Dana Falconberry’s voice is a velvety, soulful thing that is constantly finding new ways to humble the listener. Falconberry demonstrates a confident grasp of her vocal abilities, and plays up her strengths on a song-by-song basis very well: in “Pine Tree” she’ll be crooning beautifully into your ear, as though singing directly to you as a wonderfully-understated xylophone lightly taps off in the background, and the next minute she’ll be doing a good ol’ country tune like “Singing Lullabies.” The album boasts a wide array of compositional styles, and is a testament to her dynamic and skilled songwriting abilities.
Lyrically, Falconberry manages to straddle the line between intimacy and universality perfectly. In “Birthday Song” again, she leans in close and says “If I had a bottle big enough / I’d cork up the ocean blue / and I’d wait until your birthday in September / to give it to you.” My birthday isn’t even in September, and I still can’t help but fawn a little bit whenever those lyrics come out of my speakers. And yet, at the same time, I know exactly what she’s talking about, emotionally. Dana’s lyrical skill is made clear throughout Oh Skies of Grey, able to appeal to anyone while simultaneously making you think that maybe she sort of wrote this song for you; if you’re lucky.
One of the album’s few setbacks, however, is the pacing at certain points. The album seems to drag its feet a little bit towards the middle, becoming a predictable alternation of quiet/loud, heavy/soft songs which are certainly enjoyable but somewhat forgettable given the album’s strong beginning and end. The drawn-out “oohs” become a bit tiresome by the time the album wraps up, with the real point of interest being Falconberry’s lyrics, which on occasion seem to take a backseat to the singers doing their a cappella thing.
Though the album is not one that immediately separates Falconberry from the rest of the female singer/songwriter herd, those features that do distinguish her from the rest eventually will make themselves clear: her voice can easily be sweet and forceful over the course of six minutes, her songwriting is incredibly varied, ranging from complex intertwining jazzy harmonies to an almost Mazzy Star-esque quality. Particularly “Fluorescent,” which also features slogging rhythms provided by drummer Michael Longoria, who skillfully sets the pace of Falconberry’s songs throughout the album.
I simply could not get past the highly-personal quality of the entire album, and ultimately this is easily its greatest strength. When you, the listener, feel that you are truly getting to know the artist behind the music… that is virtually the definition of a musical success. And what we have here, folks, is a clear success. The songwriting may hit a lull at certain parts, but Dana Falconberry shows an affinity for impassioned musical expression, and I look forward to her next album, which will surely be a further improvement from the very solid groundwork she has laid down with Oh Skies of Grey.
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