Callie Hopper – Out of the Shadows
Some might approach another album from a Nashville based female singer/songwriter with some trepidation. Few can blame them. The last decade has seen a flood of substandard or else mediocre artists peddled by record companies eager to cash in on the Next Big Thing and invariably widely missing that particular mark. Pandering sometimes pays off. But when the copy of a copy of a copy misses, it’s a reflection of that missing essential piece flashed by the original. Callie Hopper’s second album Out of the Shadows has that missing essential piece front row center for the release’s thriteem songs. There’s nothing unlucky about this work. Instead, it presents itself as the second solid shot full of the magic legacies are built on.
Her courage is reflected in the opening and title track. “Out of the Shadows” begins with some surprisingly savage drumming before the guitar enters. Much of Out of the Shadows centers around the acoustic guitar, but Hopper doesn’t restrict her sonic range to merely invoking the rustic and stripped back. She mixes the contemporary and retro with deft taste, never favoring one over the other, and bringing these disparate elements into seamless accord. Hopper penned the ballad “Stay” on her own and it’s a testament to how completely her chief collaborator Chad Alexander molds his own distinctive talents to serve Hopper’s vision that there’s no discernible difference between the spirit of other pieces and this distinct solo effort. The soul, intelligence, and sensitivity Hopper trumpets as her calling card are in full evidence here. “Fire and Ice” finds her tackling a duet with the aforementioned Alexander. The two voices play off against one another with attentiveness and playfulness alike, but listeners will find the real value here in the delicate melodic balance the musicians achieve within the arrangement.
“Beautiful” is one of the album’s finer ballads, on par or greater than the earlier “Stay”, and certainly much more concerned with weaving an atmospheric spell. Hopper exhibits tremendous sensitivity with the vocal without ever letting her approach become too precious and overwrought. As the title implies, “Hold On” has a balladic tilt that Hopper takes full advantage of with one of her finer, carefully plotted out vocals. The deliberation she shows, however, never means the song has anything less than a spontaneous, present in the moment, utterance from her heart, “Wishful Thinking” is a turbulent and yet intensely lyrical song that makes fantastic use of the phrase and benefits from exquisite piano playing. “This Song’s Not For You” is an uproarious surprise after the relatively sedate nature of the preceding songs. The contrast is startling enough that it constitutes a real jolt on the album’s second half and underlines Hopper’s willingness to catch her target audience’s attention with something different.
“Chasing a Dream” turns back towards the sensitive singer/songwriter material dominating the album and closes Out of the Shadows on an elegiac, but ultimately hopeful note. Callie Hopper affirms the virtues of the respective styles she touches upon while infusing them with bewitching talent and tenderness.
9 out of 10 stars.