Natalie Wattré Band – Break

Natalie Wattré applies to the Janis Joplin school of rock. But while Joplin had been firmly entrenched in the 70’s, Wattré’s music is entirely modern. Still, there are similarities between these two very soulful women, and I can’t help but feel Wattré is playing the music Joplin would, had she been alive today, or perhaps young today.
The music on Break floats the line between folk and rock, but it can clearly fit in with such strong-willed female singer/songwriters as Melissa Etheridge, Ani Difranco, Joan Armatrading, and others. After playing the Los Angeles band the Extinct for seven years, Wattré is now completely on her own, and there is no doubting this is her project. Her acoustic guitar and thick, soulful vocals take over these songs, and that’s all these songs really need. The percussion, strings, and other accompaniment adds to the works but never takes away from Wattré herself. You can’t help but feel she is singing her heart and soul out, directly to you, and it’s that kind of emotion and intensity that makes this album so damn good.
I think I’m taken in from the beginning, the quick building, intense sounds of “Lost.” When Wattré’s soulful voice comes in, I can’t help but feel the pain and urgency of her words. And the use of strings helps temper the more poppy “Tarnished,” which has minor similarities to the Indigo Girls. The title track adds elements of keyboard to Wattré’s powerful guitar, and this one may be most similar to a Joplin tune. But I like “Wayside” even better, as electric guitars take the fore, and the song has this great bluesy rock feel that makes me feel weak in the knees.
On “Unconditional Love,” you get equal parts of quieter, more emotional ballad and Wattré’s drawled-out cries. And the lovely “Nothing” reminds me of Lucinda Williams and her style, which has always affected me. “Reeling,” a quiet, completely acoustic track, and the more moody “Everything Changes” are quite beautiful. “Calm” adds to that feel, quiet and nicely on the folk-pop style, and these songs are contrasted nicely by the more upbeat and poppy “Back Seat” and “Without You,” the latter of which has some fantastic guitar. Finally, the closer, “Shine,” leaves you feeling the emotion that Wattré is so good at, a nice, quiet indie folk-rock song with a real passion and some excellent lyrics.
The only real downfall here is this album is long. 16 songs might be a bit heavy, as the songs do tend to have a similar feel after a while. And all this being said, I have to admit that Wattré could easily fall into the female alterna-folk folds that pushed Etheridge and Armatrading into the spotlight. Wattré’s music could fit into that spotlight, and you wouldn’t blink twice. Her songwriting is easily as good as those established musicians, and her vocals, so thick and soulful, will set her apart enough for her to be more than a flash in the pan. I expect great things from this woman, and I’ll hold on to this album and my enjoyment of it as long as I can. For while I believe it could be successful on adult contemporary stations, I’d rather keep it all to myself.