Gary Frenay

Armory Square

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Gary Frenay is a singer/songwriter, and Armory Square is a simple one-man-and-his-acoustic-guitar album distributed by a label (Tangible) that specializes in folk music. But Frenay's breezy, feather-light approach to songwriting has much more in common with the music of Neil Diamond, James Taylor, or Carly Simon than it has with Bob Dylan, Joni Mitchell, or Paul Simon. This is a man with pop in his blood. His songs are cleanly and engagingly -- though sometimes rather predictably -- crafted, with immediately recognizable verse, chorus and bridge structures and memorable tunes. He leaves a strong impression of competency: this is not a writer who thrashes out a few chords and improvises a tune to sing over them. He knows what he's doing. Songwriting is his strong suit, though he does have a penchant for overblown choruses that explode out of quiet verses with all the enthusiasm of a writer who has just discovered that the words "secret" and "reveal it" can be made to rhyme. His guitar work is also impressive, and Armory Square benefits from his decision to stay acoustic. It creates a bridge between folk and pop that gives his style a freshness that it might not otherwise have. But Frenay's songs might be better served by a singer with a stronger voice than his. His songs, with their sugar coated melodies and plain-spoken lyrics, are the sort that can be made exceptional only by a vocalist of exceptional talent. Frenay's vocals -- thin, unsteady, and limited in range -- sometimes make his songs seem weaker than they are.

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