Review of Bachelor Girl (Seven Days)

Robert Resnik, Seven Days

You need to know only two things right from the start: Burlington singer/songwriter Karen McFeeters comes equipped with a beautiful voice and is an accomplished songwriter. She also has a mission. On the very first song from her new CD, entitled Bachelor Girl, Karen sings: “Hearing Joni, Cat and James takes me to a different place/melodies run ’round my brain. I wanna be up on that stage.” Invoking Joni Mitchell, the first or second generation inspiration for countless songwriters, is a good place to start; McFeeters is a major player in the Vermont Songwriters Group, a well-established workshop and support group for aspiring composers and performers sponsored by Burlington Coffeehouse godfather Jeff Miller. McFeeters sings in the same range as Mitchell and, on tracks such as “Summer Moon,” the similarities are difficult to ignore.

The 13 tracks on the disc including the closer “Hot Summer Blues,” which for some reason isn’t mentioned in the liner notes or the songlist are all original McFeeters compositions. They cover a wide range of colors, including pensive ballads, a lullabye and a few pop numbers. One of the last is “You Mean Somethin’ to Me,” featuring Gregory Douglass on back-up vocals. You have to pay attention here, though. Casual listening might leave you with the impression that much of the material on this album sounds similar, so Bachelor Girl deserves closer scrutiny in order for you to appreciate the depth and variety of McFeeters’ composition skills.

You also have to listen closely to discover all the pleasant musical surprises. In addition to McFeeters’ keyboard work, many tasteful bits on this recording are contributed by other fine local musicians. Craig Anderson provides rich foundation work on acoustic guitar on many of the tracks, and here and there you can hear Pete Sutherland on fiddle, Colin McCaffrey on bass and guitar, and co-producer Peter Engisch on synthesizers and support. Bachelor Girl is an impressive first effort, and I wouldn’t be surprised if Karen McFeeters already has a whole book full of songs waiting to be recorded, something to look forward to.