Rachael Yamagata

Record review

ACL Fest Reviews

Rachael Yamagata

Happenstance (RCA Victor) In the never ending Attack of Norah Clones, Rachael Yamagata's major label debut could become the phantom menace. Her unmistakably smoky voice and delicate piano work don't avoid the Norah formula, they embrace it. Though with songs such as the sunny "1963," Yamagata owes nearly as much to Carole King and Carly Simon, which is why Happenstance is not only a smooth listen but an infectious one as well. "Letter Read" and "Worn Me Down" are thick waves of AM gold that sound like Fiona Apple if she still made lush arrangements. Unfortunately, some of Yamagata's words lack depth, probably to be expected when her primary collaborator is the man who gave us John Mayer (producer John Alagia). Yamagata's bluesy Shelby Lynne vibe on "Meet Me by the Water" triumphs when listeners ignore ineffective refrains like "Would you please fall asleep holding my hand? 'Cause I've got everything in store for you, baby, if you'll be my man." Sometimes the simplicity of her delivery impresses, like on the Portishead reminder "Even So" or the Tin Pan Alley-friendly "I Want You." All the same, tepid lyrics prevent "Under My Skin" or "Reason Why" from becoming the classics they almost are. She may be a gifted musician, but she still has a few years of growth before she should be left alone in the writing room. At least Norah knows not to compose all of her songs herself. (Sunday, 12:45pm, SBC stage)


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