Natalie Flanagan – Let

Her songs are straightforward and at times perhaps even a little cold, but the less-flowery approach lends the folk-drenched singer/songwriter a little bit of individuality in a genre where it is so very hard to find. Her lyrics are a bit lackluster, or maybe just plain, but she refuses to fall back on the high and dainty, lady songbird image that so many female artists fall prey to.
Not that she’s without influences mind you. Taking a heavy hint from lazy troubadours like Lou Reed, Flanagan’s voice is breathy and unshakably calm (at times some might even say bored), with a somewhat self-conscious way of almost speaking the lyrics even as she sings them. At times it’s also impossible to avoid flashing on the vocal attack that Bob Dylan made infamous in the mid-70s, with his reaching up and barely hitting the note before sliding it way down the scale to make it more manageable (see the amazing vocals of “Idiot Wind” on Blood on the Tracks.) On Let, Flanagan caricaturizes that same approach throughout, but most specifically on “Grace Under Pressure” and “Come in Tokyo,” both of which might be two of her strongest songwriting efforts on the collection. Yet though Dylan pulls it off without so much as batting an eye, one would be hard pressed to find another human being able to do so, and unfortunately Natalie Flanagan is no exception. Instead it comes across as a bit of a put-on, or at the very least, an unappealing affectation.
Still, elsewhere on the record her sultry, ambivalent singing is not entirely unfitting to the music behind it. Backed by piano, organ, loads of tasteful percussion, acoustic and electric guitars – which slip in some seriously classic rock infected blues fills – her voice completes the picture nicely. But the “picture” and feeling she creates is not one we haven’t all experienced before, and worse it’s one that other performers do decidedly better; meaning more evocatively and with a greater command of both songwriting and performance. In short, Natalie Flanagan does what she does well, but as she hasn’t set the bar too high for herself she’s wound up with an album of decent songs with good players, but nothing so pertinent that it demands to stay with the listener after the album winds to a close.