Review of Bachelor Girl (Free Press)

Steve Lemcke, Burlington Free Press, 8/8/2002

McFeeters’ Amazing Voice Hits the Right Notes

Karen McFeeters might not be a name you’re familiar with yet. However, if her debut CD is any indication, chances are she’ll be around the local music scene for quite a while. McFeeters, one of the prettiest voices to emerge from the folk/singer songwriter clique in some time, holds her coming out ball Saturday at The Flynn Space. While “Bachelor Girl” shows off solid songwriting, McFeeters’ voice is what launches her to the top of the genre in this town. Anyone who reads this column on a regular basis (hey, it could happen) knows I am not a huge folk fan. It all seems to come out basically sounding the same. Don’t get the idea that this singer from St. Albans is that different from the rest. She’s guilty of a lot of the folk cliches. Piano and acoustic guitars are filled out by a bit of cello, fiddle and sundry other basics for singer/songwriters, bringing plushness to the bare essentials. For me, it’s an extra pleasant surprise when a local songwriter has such a great set of pipes that I can forgive her the expected pitfalls created by my own pre-assumptions.

McFeeters has obviously been weaned on Joni Mitchell records. The prettiest of warbles and vibrato accentuate what is naturally a high-registered tone. While being modulated a bit differently throughout the album, the voice remains the thing. The opener “I Just Want to Sing” is an obvious declaration of her ambitions and her heart’s true passion. Of course, there are the romantic ballads. Women being the complex creatures they are, the two coexist nicely in McFeeters, expressed well in the bouncy and fun closing title track. From the coy and upbeat super-poppy piano of “I Don’t Know” (which is only a piano solo away from being perfect) to the desires expressed in “You Mean Something to Me,” the songs’ lyrics are straightforward and clear.

Her storytelling abilities are nicely served by “Jenny Lynn,” a quick peak that gives a wider view at the romantic life of an elderly lady, but “Summer Moon” seems a bit too reminiscent of “My Name Is Luca” in its subject matter to really hit home. “Baby Love” is sweet and appropriately precious for a lullaby. My favorites are the songs that have a bit more going on in the lower end of the audible spectrum; those that are tricked out with electric guitar, thicker bass tones and more percussive; those that have a fuller radio-friendly sound (“I Don’t Know,” “You Mean Something To Me”). “Bachelor Girl” has enough good songs on it to be a pleasant enough listen, but the strength of McFeeter’s voice is the one undeniable component that puts this album a cut above your average first time effort. Paula Cole fans and Joni Mitchell wannabes looking for a local alternative should check this one out. It’s a fine debut that should place her among the ranks of the creme de la creme of local songstresses.