Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Review: Rachael Cantu - Run All Night

Label: Q Division Records

Released: February 7, 2006

A number of years ago, I bought a 7" from a band I'd never heard on a whim. The band was okay, but the thing that stayed with me was the voice. It was rich and mature, yet young and optimistic. It was beautiful. The band was Quite Satellite and that voice was Rachael Cantu. I got in touch with her and she hooked me up with a CD-R of some stuff she recorded after that with Robb MacLean of Limbeck. I bought Limbeck's first album just because she sang backup on it. Then it seemed like not much was going on and, while I still listen to those songs, I lost touch with her career. So, while I was perhaps early to appreciate her talent, I'm late in hearing Run All Night. About four years have passed since I'd heard anything new from her and in that time some things have changed and some have stayed the same.

Rachael Cantu still plays low-key, indie, singer-songwriter material. Therefore, the instrumentation is still sparse, but more polished. The music on its own is generally good, though nothing jumps out immediately, but a closer listen shows that there's more variety. Her voice is still the focus, but it's changed a little.

The album doesn't quite get off on the best foot. The opening track, "Hear My Laughter" lacks even subtle elements of interest. But the flat start is misleading. The upbeat, but not too upbeat, "Saturday" easily gets past the false start of the opener. It's not immediately apparent, because she's so subtle over most of the album, but there's a lot going on beneath the surface. Sometimes, Cantu sticks to her old folky, voice-and-a-guitar ways, but at others she dabbles in a variety of genres. They rise subtly from the album's basic form. She's soulful on "Sweat & Bones." There's jazz in her voice on the dark title track which closes the album. She really hits stride in the middle with "Blood Laughs," whose ambient drone proves the best backdrop for her voice; "This Breath Won't Hold," with an evocative jazz feel to her vocals over the indie/folk guitar; and "My First War," whose strings ebb and flow and which hints at her younger voice.

Run All Night is certainly a more mature recording than Cantu has made in the past, but there's both an up and down side to that maturity. The songs are better written and the arrangements help bring out her voice which is every bit as beautiful, but is missing the youthful optimism that made it even more striking in the past. The songs have long had a sadness that permeates them, but the optimism always added a yearning that this album is missing.

Rating: 6/10



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