Russian-born Dallasite Manya Repnikova writes songs that manage to capture the electricity of moments like those just before a Texas-sized thunderstorm unleashes its payload.
The only thing eclipsing Repnikova’s talent as a songwriter is her amazingly sweet voice. As much as it is a vehicle for her lyrics, it’s also easily embraceable as its own beautiful natural phenomenon. However, Blue Petal isn’t a solo act. It also includes Fort Worthians Peter Anderson and Bryan Butler. The former shares some songwriting duties while adding guitar and piano parts, and the latter offers fine-as-a-frog’s-hair finger-picking and harmonica lines. Their playing is solid here on the band’s eponymous five-song EP, and they also seem to be good listeners. Even during the solos, the guys’ performances are tight but restrained, expertly complementing Repnikova’s voice through the dynamic swells of each track.
The standout single is “Turning It Around,” the most conversational of a collection that’s a mix of folk and jazz with pop leanings. On a soft bed of acoustic-guitar strumming, Repnikova’s voice initially summons Aimee Mann before surrendering to an ever-so-slight Billie Holiday vibe. After the first verse, the instrumentation gradually builds, adding descending vocal harmonies to the chorus and an electric keyboard line. A little ebb and flow tugs at the tempo before it all returns to the tranquility of the opening.
Throughout the disc, the backing players are afforded a fair share of limelight to showcase their ample, well-tempered abilities, and they never come into contention with the instrument that is the centerpiece of every song: Repnikova’s vocalismo. The last track, “Host,” is a departure from the guitar-based arrangements of the previous four songs. Backed by an arpeggio keyboard line coupled with a wavy synth flourish, Repnikova adopts a darker tone. The increased focus on her voice here conjures some of Kate Bush’s best work.
As amazing an effort as Blue Petal is, a couple of elements are mildly nagging. The songs tend to borrow from recognizable formulas, and woodwinds and strings and beats that don’t sound so synthetic would seem to be more in keeping with the record’s overall organic timbre. Given that three people can only do so much, these tiny flaws seem to be more of an economic issue than a creative choice. Simply put, Blue Petal’s talent is obvious, demands attention, and effectively nullifies any quibbles – until perhaps the 500th time you listen to the CD. And you will at least that much. – Tom Urquhart
Tomorrow (Thu) w/Blue Mountain and Chris Flemmons at Dan’s Silverleaf, 103 Industrial St, Denton. 940-320-2000.