Artist: Reina Collins and Barteletti, Rob
Album: Even If I Fall
Technical Grade: 9/10
Production/Musicianship Grade: 10/10
Commercial Value: 8/10
Overall Talent Level: 9/10
Songwriting Skills: 8/10
Performance Skill: 10/10
Best Songs: Even If I Fall, Something Blue, House On Fire
I’m not often a sit-still-and-be-reflective person – wish I was. But this CD makes me want to relax in a rocking chair (on some tunes I might be dancing in my mind), drink a glass of iced tea with lemon, and gaze across a country lake. It’s that rustic, crisp, and refreshing.
The vibrant title track of Even If I Fall grabbed me right away. Tony Furtado’s blissful dobro run gives way to Reina Collins’ rich voice. Nick Peets adds some campfire-smoky backing vocals on the chorus, as he does throughout the disc. Next, “Yonder Ship” is an upbeat narrative like a good Dolly Parton song. Reina’s sings like a woman who has earned life’s wisdom, and Furtado fires off another nifty dobro solo.
“Blue Sky” is one of Reina’s compositions, and it’s roadhouse-worthy. Terry Robb shreds on slide guitar, and Reina belts it out like she’s stalking the stage on a Saturday night. Later on the album, the driving “Big Ol’ House” would work even better if Reina cut loose (this one kind of reminds me of one of my guilty pleasures, Cher’s “Gypsies, Tramps, and Thieves.”)
On the other end of the vocal spectrum, she achingly sings the lines of “Honky-Tonk Band” in a way that is both vulnerable and knowing. It’s another roadhouse-worthy number, but in a cry-in-your-beer way, especially after you hear Bob Baker’s wailing fiddle.
I appreciate how Reina and songwriter Rob Barteletti (he penned 10 of the 15 tracks) steers clear of cliché even as he writes about common country/folk themes in numbers such as “Honky Tonk Band” and the catchy “Something Blue.”
On the beautifully simple “Too Costly Is Nothing.” Reina’s vocal is touching and sincere, and Nancy Ives contributes understated and moving cello playing. The hopeful “Whole New Way” is another pretty number, embellished by flourishes of piano (Peter Boe) and harmonica (Bart Ferguson).
Reina’s sultry voice is such a powerful presence on the album, and “House on Fire” is one of her most emotional vocal performances. It especially hits home as I write this in the midst of our Florida drought. Paul Hirschman (who plays guitar throughout the CD) contributes tasty mandolin.
The sincere, earthy Even If I Fall is hook-filled folk rock – more folk than rock, with a nice dose of twang that adds to its considerable charm.