Monday, August 12, 2013

Review: Candice Russell - So Much More

Some artists find their musical calling by accident, stumbling upon the art from without any planning and finding a gift. Others are born knowing what they’re called to do, bursting forth from the womb with a song in their hearts. Count rising pop artist, Candice Russell, among the latter and, on her debut release, So Much More, the artist displays the heart, passion, and talent she’s spent the past twenty-one years of her life cultivating.

Russell’s musical gifts were first recognized by her mother at the tender age of one, marveling as the toddler crooned through a pitch-perfect rendition of “Jesus Loves Me.” From there, the child took to singing in church, joining the choir while showcasing her vocals in various high school singing groups as well, earning praise and acclaim along the way, listeners remarking about the young singer’s growing poise.

She would then go on to win the singer-songwriting competition at the Oregon Fine Arts Festival and then get the call to head to Hollywood on American Idol in 2012, garnering her even more experience. Shortly after her Idol experience, Russell was introduced to longtime producer, Dave Lubben, best known for his work with Christian rock act, Kutless, and the seeds for her debut record were sown. Soon after, Russell, Lubben, and Russell’s brother, Aaron, gathered together to craft the ten original songs that comprise So Much More.

The album is a straightforward pop rock flavored affair, performed by top session musicians from Los Angles, Nashville, and Portland, lending the record plenty of sound appeal. Lubben holds the production reins and, assisted by Aaron Russell, helps to forge a soundscape that is fresh and clean, letting the artist’s songs really speak for themselves.

And the message those songs bring is one of hope and encouragement. Speaking to that end, the artist shares, “I want to reach people with music that I have written and hopefully uplift and help them.” That viewpoint allows the album an air of spirituality that pervades many of the tracks, offering up elements of Russell’s faith alongside honest tales of love, relationships, and more.

The album opens up with the fresh-faced pop sounds of “Too Into You,” Russell singing of a narcissistic suitor who’s “too into the man in the mirror” while “Escape” finds her relationship in a better place, warm keyboard tones setting the mood with mid-tempo percussion which gently pushes forward the youthful tale of love. A darker tone is set with “Good Luck With That” as Russell finds herself in the place of the jilted lover, moody guitars joining with some programmed beats that hammer home. The darker tones allow Russell a chance to showcase her vocal range despite a simple lyric in the chorus.

Russell’s vocals get even more of a chance to shine on “Loved By You,” a track that carries the love theme further and finds Russell dueting with a male vocal which shows her ability to blend and harmonize which she does beautifully. This is a radio-ready hit that just begs for airplay. “My Friend” offers up the hope of grace in the lyric, Russell finding the accepting gaze of a dear friend something amazing as a persistent guitar lick pushes the track onward.

“Remember” is a lithe, lighthearted track reminiscent of work by artists like Bethany Dillon and is one that would fit fine on Christian radio worldwide with its spiritually-tinged lyric and beautiful delivery. Those spiritual themes continue on “So Much More,” as Russell looks for more to this world while supported by an energetic musical arrangement.

It’s a slow build of heartbreak on “Someday,” the artist experiencing the pangs of lost love and heartache before the appropriately upbeat programming of “Summer Nights” turns her frown upside down, Russell singing multiple vocal parts that dance together solidly. The artist’s search for true love helps to close out the album on “When I See You,” Russell almost singing a prayer of sorts to her future lover accented by an airy and ethereal background.

On So Much More, Candice Russell shows that she’s got plenty to offer this world as an artist. Shining vocally throughout, the artist has crafted a sound collection of tracks that showcase her talents well. And while the album finds the artist still in need of a bit more original identity, the personality that listeners will find here is more than enough to draw them back again for this talented young woman’s next act.

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