Linda Draper – Bridge and Tunnel

Linda Draper - Bridge and Tunnel

Linda Draper - Bridge and Tunnel

Singer-songwriter Linda Draper returns with her 3rd album for Planting Seeds Records, an understated, lyrics-centric, alt-folk confessional with clear, upfront vocals.  While Linda is not a powerhouse vocalist, she still acutely conveys her reflective, melancholic lyrics, ably accompanied by low-key, fluidly-picked acoustic guitar lines, solemn, sustained organ notes, and backing vocal accents.  Linda’s plaintive, pliant delivery in tone and phrasing recalls a milder Amy Duncan, a less nasal Aimee Mann, and Kate Tucker with less twang.  She’s a wordsmith like Thea Gilmore, but more mellow in intent and inflection and her songs are mainly of the traditional “verse, chorus, verse” structure.

“Sharks and Royalty” starts it off with rolling guitar swells with a deeper line twined by lighter finger-picking of the strings as Linda sings “For such a long time now / I’ve been learnin’ how to get by…” as the phrase “on my own” is repeated amid an uplift of organ notes on the chorus.  Lighter synth notes, a reverberating, sandy beat, and low-register upright bass figure into “I Will” with organ notes coming in and a tender, fragile emotion running through Linda’s vocals that recalls the half-broken, hurt tone of Patsy Cline as she sings achingly “They say you don’t know all you got ‘til it’s gone. / Maybe you never had it all along.”

“Time Will Tell”, sports a faster tempo with lighter, xylophone-like notes and guitars in the background for most of the song and Linda taking on a mid-range, sing-talking cadence on the lyrics-heavy, contemplative verses like “…’cause everyone needs somebody else who’s / got something more than them to lose.”  A softer tone is utilized on “Pushing Up the Day”, with picked guitar, upright bass, and the complex lyrics “…because daylight lives / in the hearts of those who give / without expecting a gift / to be given in return.”  The music is unobtrusive and supports the vocals that are at the forefront.

Once again, the lyrics are at the fore on “Close Enough” (“Only the fool in the noose / with nothing left to lose / says “Baby, don’t keep me hangin.”), which instrumentally varies with a build up of sounds like guitar, organ, and backing female vocals.  Linda’s songs are chock-a-block with pithy lyrics, and it’s a bit unintentionally ironical when on “Broken Eggshells” she sings “I know it’s hard to see things clearly / when all the words get in the way.”

Linda changes tack on “Mother’s Little Helper”, a cover of the Rolling Stones song from 1966, crafting it into an even more retro-sounding tune with doubled vocals, pixie-ish “doo doo doos”, and an uppity tempo with jangled guitars and swiftly rattled tambourine.  The tone is completely different from the rest of the album, a square peg in a round role, but an interesting one, where it sounds like she is paying homage to the chipper, harmonizing sister acts of the 1940s like the McGuire Sisters, but with anti-domesticity sentiments that fit squarely with the themes of the AMC TV show Mad Men.  Linda’s bright, harmonizing vocals are sung a cappella about a mother who needs something to calm her down and “… though she’s not really ill / there’s a little yellow pill / …and it helps her on her way / gets her through her busy day.”

“Last One Standing” goes the country route with strummed guitar, watery synth notes, organ notes, and Linda’s mid-range to lower register backed by lighter, more wistful vocals as she sings “Some will lead, most will follow / then there are the lucky few / who find better things to do.”