Colleen McFarland

Let It Shine

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Let It Shine, Colleen McFarland's fourth album, comes off as one of those Nashville independent efforts that, whether the artist intended it or not, acts as a glorified publishing demo, showcasing the material for possible covers by more prominent country artists. McFarland seems to have spent a long time listening to Dolly Parton and Emmylou Harris, and she's come up with an approach to singing that combines their sounds while softening them; she is not as piercing as Parton or as nasal as Harris, and she has a warmth all her own. Her songs are arranged in country-folk styles in which primary accompanist (and co-producer) Thomm Jutz seems to come up with a different instrument (electric, acoustic, and slide guitars, mandolin, dobro) or texture for each song, and other musicians add extra colors. Chris Carmichael overdubs himself into a string quartet on the sad piano ballad "Drowning the World," and by a similar technique Dave Jacques becomes a one-man horn section on the title song. In her lyrics, McFarland consistently sings first-person addresses to a "you" (sometimes also called "babe" or "baby"), but it seems as though those characters change from song to song; at the very least, they vary from happy romantic relationships to quite unhappy ones. "Fingers on the Buttons," the hardest rocking tune, seems to be written from a male perspective ("You were the queen of my inspiration," McFarland sings, and "I've been locked up in my head like a crazy man"). "Pretty Little Bird" finds the protagonist speaking to an avian friend as a way of mourning a dead child. Otherwise, the narrators seem to be women experiencing the usual ups and downs of love with a variety of compliant or reluctant men. On "I Do," which has a sprightly Merseybeat arrangement, McFarland duets with keyboardist "Peter Nova," a condensed anagram for the song's co-writer, Jan Petter Ringvold, on a song that could have been a pop hit in 1964. The rest might be country hits, if they reach the right hands.

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