Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Years in making, CLT's Coobs sets debut bar high

Singer-songwriter Reeve Coobs has been playing music in Charlotte for over a decade now as a solo artist and in the female quartet the Near Missses, but only released her debut album "What Love is All About" late last year. She plays Evening Muse with Charlie King Thursday.

While many artists today are ready to jump in the studio after writing their first handful of songs, there's something to be said for taking your time. Coobs has devoted years to her craft and it shows on "What Love is All About" - a collection of beautifully sung, fully-realized tunes nine years in the making.

The album begins with the waltzing "Magic Show." Its carnival-feel, sing-songy verses, choice of instrumentation, and the scratchy, muffled, old vinyl sound of the intro presumably inspired the album's playful circus tent cover art and serves as a ear-catching opener. The song opens up with full production and gives listeners an ample taste of what's to come, which is a consistent, cohesive, but still diverse album of striking arrangements, songwriting, and subtle production. 

Coobs has a knack for crafting a pop hook. "To Be With You" is right up there with Shawn Colvin's best work. I wouldn't be shocked to hear "Stranger" scoring a scene on "Grey's Anatomy" or better yet something more youthful and cutting edge like "The Vampire Diaries." The latter climbs from a bluesy, methodical verse to a fiery rock chorus that's built for building suspense and drama. "Goodbye" is another track that worms its way into your memory begging for embarrassing rainy night sing-alongs ("It's Too Late!") in the privacy of your car. 

Coobs shakes up styles enough to keep it interesting while maintaining her sound. She out-right rocks on "Let It Out" and the bluesy "Hopeful Thought" and gets spooky and weird with psychedelic guitar wailing subtly in the background on "I Can't Believe It." 

She can play the intimate, coffee shop folkie too. "Caught" is a stirring and simple sliver of a song built around lovely harmonies. With few words she captures self-doubt, loss, and depression in little more than two minutes. That's the test of a good writer - getting your point across quickly with no filler. At 14 songs you'd assume there'd be filler, but Coobs and co-producer Jeff Williams (of gogoPilot) had plenty of time to refine these tracks with the help of a band of seasoned area musicians (pictured above). It includes pedal steel from much missed Sea of Cortez leader Rodney Lanier on one track. Lanier died almost two years before its release.

There's so much good about this record I can't single out every strong song. There's emotional highs, sassy rock n' roll ones, quiet singer-songwriter confessionals and impressive, soulful vocals. "What Love is All About" is the whole package. It's certainly one of my favorite local releases of the past year.
Coobs plays the Muse Thursday at 8 p.m. Admission is $10 to $12. You can also check her out online here.