Thursday, June 2, 2011

Renée Wahl - Cumberland Moonshine


Renée Wahl - Cumberland Moonshine
2011, Renée Wahl Records

Physicist, educator, U.S. Air Force veteran and singer/songwriter Renée Wahl has packed a lot of living and learning into her life thus far.  An educated drifter and an organized dreamer, Wahl found her way to Nashville a few years back to make another dream come true.  Earlier this spring part of that dream came to fruition, with the release of Wahl's debut album, Cumberland Moonshine.  With an alternative edge but deep respect for country music's roots, Renée Wahl writes about life, love and the spaces in between that make all the difference. 

Cumberland Moonshine opens with "On Something New", an energetic, mid-tempo country number capturing the high of new love.  Wahl's voice is sultry and just a bit gritty, with a gorgeous velvet tone.  The folks behind her aren't too shabby either, matching Wahl note for note.  "Keeping You For Mine" takes love and obsession to dark places.  Etched against a classic melody is tale of obsession so complete that only death can ensure they never part.  "One More To Go" is a catchy country number that's commercial without commercial aspirations.  Wahl could be mistaken for a cross between Reba and Bonnie Raitt here, and the song borders on instant classic status. 

Wahl delves into blues-based rock n roll for "Under My Skin", showing off a bit of her upper range in the process.  "Roses Are Blue" is a kiss-off number born of infidelity, but laced with a good-natured humor that's refreshing.  Wahl manages to sound classic country even while placing her firmly original stamp on the song.  Renée Wahl has a likely hit on her hands in "Heartbreak Thing".  Blues, rock and country mix in a tune about trying to get over a lost love but not quite letting go.  Drinking her troubles away turns into a cycle that keeps her locked in place, with the story told against a catchy honky-tonk arrangement you won't be able to get out of your noggin.  Wahl is thoroughly in her element here, in perfect voice with all cylinders firing.

"Love Won't Be Denied" is a solid, radio-friendly country number; the sort likely to pop on a soundtrack somewhere over the next year or two.  "Come On Baby" is the ultimate invitation in song.  Wahl drops this one like a bomb; listeners of all persuasions will find themselves wishing she was singing to them, in what might be one of the catchiest and danceable country songs of 2011.  "Got A Feeling" finds Wahl turning sultry and in a slow blues number carved from the harsh realities of life.  Cumberland Moonshine closes with "I'm A Wave", perhaps the only song on the album that seems out of place.  It's a somewhat disappointing end to what is otherwise a stellar effort.

Renée Wahl might just set Nashville on fire with her voice.  Wahl gives her all on Cumberland Moonshine, one of the most exciting country debuts in the past five years or so.  Wahl's just getting started, but has already shown herself to be better-than-average songwriter.  With a voice you could listen to all day long, and a backing band that's among the best in Nashville, expect big things from Renée Wahl in the future.  Cumberland Moonshine is a thrilling introduction.

Rating: 4.5 Stars (Out of 5)

Learn more about Renée Wahl at www.reneewahl.com or www.myspace.com/reneewahlmusic.  Cumberland Moonshine is available from Amazon.com as a CD or Download.  The album is also available via iTunes.