ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

Weiler steps up with new studio album

It's a little hard to describe Brenda Weiler's voice, but it's the place everyone starts, because it's so impressive. One reviewer said when she breathes, the air must sound sweet, and that's a good start.

It's a little hard to describe Brenda Weiler's voice, but it's the place everyone starts, because it's so impressive. One reviewer said when she breathes, the air must sound sweet, and that's a good start.
Weiler has a wonderful, pure tone that cuts right to the heart of the matter. She's no diva -- she never puts her voice ahead of the song, and she won't shatter glass. Her voice is just pure as a crystal.
In "Fly Me Back," Weiler's third CD, Weiler breaks new ground. Her earlier albums, "Trickle Down" and "Crazy Happy," helped lead Weiler to many awards, including Minnesota Female Vocalist of the Year, and tons of "next-big-thing" critical acclaim. Now the folk singer-songwriter's more heavily instrumented, studio-style album could make good on the make-it-big promise.
Actually, the change is both good and bad. On the good side, there are some terrific songs here, starting with the opening three -- "Noella Rae," "Daisy" and "Breathe" -- and these might give Weiler that last push into stardom. It also gives her a chance to work with some new sounds, and this works out really well on some songs, particularly "Sun Ray" and "Boston."
But there were some advantages to the spare instrumentation of Weiler's previous work. First, she's a lot more than a pretty voice -- Weiler is a fine acoustic guitar player and an even better songwriter. While both are still present, there is a lot less nifty guitar work on "Fly Me Back." And somehow, I find the simpler instrumentation puts more emphasis on Weiler's songwriting.
There are some places this spills over tangibly on the disc -- notably "You Sweet Thing," where I find the effects distracting. The other stumble in my opinion was, ironically, "Motherless Chile," Weiler's acoustic rendition of the traditional spiritual, although it's growing on me. On "Crazy Happy," Weiler did a version of "Poor Me" that worked really well, but "Motherless Chile" falls short of that effort's energy and intensity.
Still, in the end the great material on "Fly Me Back" answers all doubts. One of my very favorites is the title track, an anthem of a young woman finding her way in the world. It's probably no accident this song, sparely orchestrated and intimately personal, is reminiscent of Weiler's earlier work. Ditto for "Better," which is a sweet love song, just Weiler and her guitar, and a fabulous close to the disc.
"Boston" is the opposite -- a more uptempo, pop song with a full backup band and a bit of bite -- and it works too. This, too, is a good sound for
Weiler.
But if you have to pick a song that will probably get and deserve a lot of radio play, it is "Noella Rae," the upbeat, catchy tune that opens "Fly Me Back." Weiler has a penchant for these wonderful melodies that lead up to a big note where she can let her voice fly, evident from the opening sounds of "Trickle Down." If there is one song where the best of this new sound works with the best of the old sound, it is "Noella Rae."
I'm a huge Weiler fan, and I have been since the first time I put one of her CDs in my Discman. So while I have mixed feelings about the new sound, I recommend this disc and the previous two. "Fly Me Back" is already in regular rotation for me.
Weiler's CD release tour will roll through Duluth in early September, with a performance at Spirit of the North Theatre in Fitger's, Sept. 9 at
8 p.m.
Kyle Eller is the Budgeteer reviewer-at-large. Reach him at 723-1207 or send e-mail to kyle.eller@duluth.com .

What To Read Next
The system crashed earlier this month, grounding flights across the U.S.