Karen Fay,
Empiric Lyric
(self-produced, 2004)

Empiric Lyric is singer-songwriter Karen Fay's first full album. Her vocal style doesn't stretch any boundaries but accepts the greater limits of her range. Sometimes pushing the limits of a vocal performance causes a competition among the song's elements and can detract from the wholeness.

For instance, Fay's gentle voice on "Knowing What Love Is" helps demonstrate the simplicity and beauty of an acoustic performance: elegant lyrics, nice vocals and the strum of a guitar. By staying within a comfortable vocal range, Fay allows each element of the song to fully contribute to the whole.

Throughout the album, Fay provides solid, soulful performances with a surprising amount of versatility in style from song to song. Throughout the album, she jumps from a soft, insightful mood to a harder-edged groove and back again.

She starts off the album strongly with a hard-edged rock-influenced "Don't Know" and "Company Man," then shifts to a softer sound (think Tori Amos) with "Love is Here." She later takes it back -- way back -- to rock in "Drivin'," in which I wonder if I'm hearing Karen Fay or Joan Jett. She immediately shifts back to her softer side with "Love Has Gone," a Tom Petty-esque song.

Her shifting styles aren't limited to the song order; she continues the theme within certain songs. The piano intro on "Time" misleads you into thinking it's an impending soft ballad; it promptly shifts to an upbeat tempo and a punctuated guitar-on-drum beat. The versatility and shifting of musical styles keeps the album fresh and amicably unpredictable.

So, if you are looking for something in the singer-songwriter vein but want to be surprised, you should check out Empiric Lyric by Karen Fay.

- Rambles
written by C. Nathan Coyle
published 18 September 2004

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