Soundchecked: Rachel Kays – Natural

Rating: 8.5/10

The realm of the singer-songwriter is an over populated one. With not enough attention to go around, a lot of fine musicians find themselves drowning in the airwaves of others.

For daring to step into such a world, Rachel Kays deserves credit. For producing a body of work which stands out against the crowd, she deserves a lot of success.

Refreshingly upbeat, her debut effort Natural combines contemporary country-pop sounds with a youthful innocence, and as such the album is a great cure for the blues.

Perhaps it’s Kays’ age which makes this album successful. She’s still free enough to experiment with vocal melodies, even genres. “Left Me Hanging”, for example, would place her firmly as an artist, with a heavy synth layer, and a sparing use of vocal effects, which create an accomplished and mature song. Had she been older, then this would be seen as a lack of direction, but for me it’s a much-needed dose of variety, and a desire not to commit too early to one path or another.

It’s her age which also allows Kays to play it safe lyrically. In typical singer-songwriter fashion, love is a common source for inspiration. In this instance, however there’s something wonderfully melodramatic and nostalgic about skipping from song to song, drumming up memories of a time when every love would last forever.

That’s not to patronize. The album as a whole is cheery and sweet, and will no-doubt connect with your ‘inner-child’ (or whatever it is we call it these days). For this, Natural is all the more endearing, and should see widespread popularity for it.

Book-ending the album, “When You Were Mine” and “Still In Love With You” are marvelous country-pop anthems. The latter is energetic, cleverly crafted, and allows Kays to showcase her fantastic voice. The former, while being less energetic, still paints a picture of a confident young singer, whose voice never allows itself to be drowned out by the music.

Similar in sound to bands like The Wreckers, Rachel Kays has a musical maturity beyond her years, and presents herself as a more than credible bridging of the gap between the genres of country and pop. Instead of compromising, and allowing her style to merge, she has kept her ideas apart, and as a result can now take several different paths with future releases.

Natural is a lovely and enchanting album. On this evidence Kays seems destined to long outlive the fleeting whimsy of chart music. Watch this space.

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