Alex Henderson Reviews For a Fella

The brief, paragraph-long publicity bio on Sophie Koorhan’s website (sophiekoorhan.com) doesn’t tell us a great deal about her background or history. That mini-bio notes that the young singer/songwriter is a freshman at Belmont University in Nashville, Tennessee, loves “playing piano and singing more than anything,” plans “to continue to pursue my music for the rest of my life” and recently released her first album, For a Fella. But while Koorhan’s mini-bio and website aren’t exactly the essence of music-industry slickness, For a Fella demonstrates that the Nashville resident is no lightweight when it comes to either singing or writing songs. Lyrically and melodically as well as vocally, For a Fella is a solid and nicely crafted, if derivative, adult alternative pop-rock effort along the lines of Colbie Caillat and Norah Jones.

Koorhan is quite good at painting a warm, fuzzy picture of a budding romance… much like Colbie Caillat

Koorhan sometimes favors the type of relaxed, laid-back vocal drawl that Caillat and Jones are known for (a style of singing that can be traced back to Rickie Lee Jones, for example, if one needs a pre-Jones reference). Listeners will notice shades of both Caillat and Jones on appealing adult alternative offerings such as “Frayed,” “Done Wrong,” “Perfect Pair” and “Supposed to Be.” One of the things Koorhan is quite good at is painting a warm, fuzzy picture of a budding romance in much the way that Caillat did on her smash hit “Bubbly” in 2007: Koorhan does exactly that on the title track and on the endearing “Perfect Pair.” On the latter, lyrics like “Hey June, I’m your Johnny Cash” and “We’re so cute like Sonny & Cher” are both clever and precious.

But that is not to say that For a Fella is strictly a feel-good album or that all of Koorhan’s lyrics are on the precious side. This 51-minute CD also has its share of melancholy selections, including “Frayed,” “Near Kiss,” “Girl No,” “Butter Knife” and “Can’t Go Through.” And when Koorhan performs melancholy lyrics and sings about romantic disappointments, she does so convincingly. As a vocalist and a songwriter, Koorhan is as convincing on the melancholy tracks as she is on something as good-natured and optimistic as “Perfect Pair.”

When Koorhan performs melancholy lyrics and sings about romantic disappointments, she does so convincingly

Although Koorhan’s mini-bio points out how much she enjoys playing the piano when she sings, she doesn’t actually play either acoustic piano or electric keyboards on For a Fella. In fact, Koorhan leaves all the piano and keyboards on this 2013 release to Joe Moser, who produced and arranged the entire album. And from the title song to “Near Kiss” to “Done Wrong,” Moser often gives For a Fella a pianistic type of sound rather than a sound that is overly guitar-centric.

The vast majority of rock that has been recorded over the years has been decidedly guitar-based. A guitar-powered approach has been prominent in everything from heavy metal to folk-rock to punk to adult alternative to grunge. But there is no law stating that rock must have a guitar-based approach 100 percent of the time. Rock has a pianistic side as well (Elton John, Jerry Lee Lewis, Fiona Apple, Little Richard and Billy Joel are among the artists who have exemplified a more piano-minded approach in rock).

And on For a Fella, the piano isn’t just an instrument that takes a back seat to the guitar: Moser’s piano and keyboards stand out and assert themselves in a prominent way. Chris Frasco, the guitarist who backs Koorhan on For a Fella, also contributes to the album’s creative success, but his guitar playing asserts itself without being dominant. Moser’s piano and keyboards do not take a back seat to Frasco’s guitar. Moser, as the album’s producer and pianist/keyboardist, gives the impression that he appreciates the fact that Koorhan is a pianist herself. And it should also be noted that Moser’s production style sounds honest and organic rather than cold or sterile. Moser, much to his credit, realizes that a warm production style is needed for Koorhan’s warm vocal style.

Adult alternative enthusiasts would do well to give For a Fella a close listen.

Reviewed by Alex Henderson
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

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