March 19, 2008

Album Review: Kate Voegele - Don’t Look Away

There’s just something about a girl who plays guitar. When that girl also sings with passion and writes some quality songs, the impression resonates even more. With her debut album, Don't Look Away, twenty-one year old singer/songwriter Kate Voegele exceeds all such criteria, signaling the arrival of a promising new artist.

With qualified craft and conviction, Voegele imparts an astute pop sensibility while, at the same time, enveloping the energy of rock and roll. Her voice compares to those of contemporaries like Michelle Branch and Anna Nalick, yet Voegele’s overall sound – vocals and music – suggests some veteran and sonically edgier influences. Thus, one can hear traces of Fleetwood Mac and Linda Ronstadt, but also of Pat Benatar and Heart. In her own way and when she’s at her most affecting, Voegele offers what such predecessors delivered in their relative primes: songs as solid in composition as they are in expression.

The tracks that best achieve this balance are ones with well-defined melodies or hooks, as well as strong, compelling vocals. On rockers like “Might Have Been” and “I Get It,” Voegele sings with sass and assertion, her voice matching the intensity of their punchy, guitar-driven grooves. She demonstrates soulful and emotional depth on “I Won’t Disagree” and “Kindly Unspoken,” both songs sobered by a piano’s melancholic tone. And with “Top of the World,” she parlays comparable depth yet with layered harmonies and more rhythmic intimations.

Her creative diversity and versatility pay off the most on “Only Fooling Myself” and “It’s Only Life,” which respectively combine melodic and harmonic elements of pop with the thrust and substance of rock to yield equally stirring and powerful performances.

With Don't Look Away, Kate Voegele has begun to carve out her own niche as a unique singer/songwriter. She exhibits confidence grounded in talent, ambition, and effort. Such attributes make for an impressive debut album and suggest even better music to come.