Sophie Koorhan’s debut album, For a Fella, rather quickly establishes itself as a tremendously deep collection of singer-songwriter pieces. The twelve songs featured here are in many ways, more like vignettes. Koorhan’s lyrical style paints vivid emotional pictures of characters in love, longing for love, heartbroken, and heartfelt. Koorhan sings these stories with a wonderful voice that carries the characters and their stories through a range of emotion. The primarily piano based arrangements also help accentuate these elements by enhancing Koorhan’s voice without upstaging it.
Ferociously strong in its writing, composition, and performances.
For a Fella opens with “One Sided Love,” a track that shows exactly the kind of deep songwriting Koorhan is capable of. Here she sings from the perspective of a girl who is deeply in love with a man who doesn’t feel the same way about her. As the song goes on in its peppy tone we’re left to wonder whether or not she’s actually going to be successful in winning this man over. Between the piano and violin there’s a serene kind of sound that underscores the hopefulness of the singer. Credit too needs to be given to drummer Mark McGuire for his superb performance that briskly moves the track along but without breaking the lovely atmosphere that’s been established.
This is followed by “Frayed Love” with another rousing drum performance by McGuire. Joe Moser’s piano is, once again, integral for setting the mood as Koorhan sings with a voice that sounds beyond her years. This actually comes across more strongly on the track, “Near Kiss.” Thanks to McGuire’s use of the cymbals and Moser’s soft piano, the song has a soft jazz feel that Koorhan sings amazingly well. There’s a kind of sadness to the lyric as the singer identifies all these signs in her partner that indicate he’s not over his previous love. Koorhan finds this sentiment and channels it expertly.
All of the above songs, along with the title track, are guilty of being a bit on the long side. “For a Fella” is a lovely song that details the little things a woman loves about her man. It’s not just the way Koorhan sings these things but the specific, trivial little details she sings about that sell it. However, the track is also over five minutes long and is preceded and followed by some songs that are also near the five to six minute mark. A few of them could lose a verse and have no direct impact on their overall meaning, regardless of how strong that material is.
Then there’s numbers like “Butter Knife” that are more succinct in what they say, and in the case of this song in particular, says it fairly aggressively. Koorhan’s voice immediately reveals its edge as she goes off on telling an ex that he didn’t hurt her at all, comparing him to an ineffective butter knife. This is all backed by a more aggressive arrangement where guitarist Chris Frasco and bassist Joe Plowman both show some grit, or at least as gritty as an album like this can get. “Done Wrong” similarly shows Koorhan with a more aggressive tone, stating, “I broke a heart, because I could...” And though the melody is pretty bouncy, the lyric is anything but.
This isn’t just a stellar debut release; it’s a remarkable record for any point in a person’s career.
One of the album’s centerpieces is the duet between Koorhan and Adam Dobkin, “Thinking of Another.” The music is dynamic, going from a deep piano to something more up-tempo and back again. There’s a latent sadness to the story of two people, already in their own respective relationships, only to find there’s something wonderful about being with each other. Unfortunately, they both know they’re already committed to someone else and they lay in bed thinking of each other. Lovely as it all is, everything is strengthened by how well Koorhan and Dobkin sound together.
The rest of the album’s second half is varied in the songs it delivers. There’s another longer track, “Can’t Go Through,” which isn’t quite as attention grabbing as its brethren from the album’s first half. “Girl No” is unique in being directed at another woman as Koorhan sings about her disdain for a woman who wronged her in the past. Surprisingly the song takes on a happier tone as she seems to embrace the end of the friendship and throws in a scornful dedication, akin to Carly Simon’s “You’re So Vain.”
Sophie Koorhan is a phenomenally talented singer/songwriter. For a Fella can get a little longwinded at times but it’s also ferociously strong in its writing, composition, and performances. Many of the songs are lyrically breathtaking and Koorhan sings with all the passion of which she writes. This isn’t just a stellar debut release; it’s a remarkable record for any point in a person’s career.
Review by Heath Andrews
Rating: 4.5 out of 5 Stars