Echoing the showmanship in sound that was present in the pop music of the 1970s is Natalie Prass’ self-titled debut album, a soulful songstress from Cleveland whose songs have an uncanny ability to keep you engaged. With a voice that is soft and unassuming, this album eases itself off with the mild-mannered My Baby Don’t Understand Me, a song that begins with a sadness and a real feeling of reflection. Initially sounding like a quiet number, the song then moves into a more soulful stride with a busy bass line and the introduction of a rhythm and brass section, just to fill the sound out a bit more.
Bird of Prey is the second song on the album, and it’s not a bad one – pleasant enough in its bounding rhythm and accompanied by the old-world sound of some key-based instrument, it starts to find its feet towards the mid-way point. What strikes you immediately, if you’ve not heard Ms Prass’ singing before, is exactly that – the quality of her voice is noticeable, to say the least; there’s an obvious control in her singing, a refined sign of practice that still bears the notion of raw talent.
Admittedly unfamiliar with Natalie Prass’ music, some further reading has revealed that this is in fact her fourth release overall, the previous three being EPs, so I can only speak to what I know from listening to this record, but her style is quite unique. That might not appear apparent at first, but given time and a bit of listening you can hear that there’s a multitude of influences at work in her songs – take the third track, Your Fool, as an example and within it you can hear a mish-mash of the good and the great, shaped into another enjoyable few minutes.
There’s another glimpse of this past-pop style in the understated Why Don’t You Believe In Me, a song with real feeling and a swagger that’s prevalent in the soul of this genre of music, but manages to retain the vulnerability in Natalie Prass’ voice.
If the previous track were the highpoint in the listener’s journey, then its successor is most definitely the lowpoint – Violently is a quiet, reserved and restrained song that gives Natalie Prass’ voice the platform it warrants. It’s quite a beautiful song in that it moves with a growing sense of power as it goes along, snowballing in the emotion of wanting something you don’t have – there’s a potent lyric that seems to recur through the song, “I just want to know you, violently”.
Charming is her sound, and it’s one that is well-practiced. The album starts drawing to a close with Never Over You, a song that sounds like what one might imagine a lazy Sunday afternoon in the sun sounds like. While I was doing some online reading about Natalie Prass, I saw a review of her album which described her sound as country-soul, an analogy that’s unerringly accurate. There is a very prominent, very clear soul influence in her songs, but as alluded to earlier, there are flashes of other genres that give this singer songwriter’s music a mature sound – this is summed up nowhere better than in the closing track, It Is You, a song that sounds as though it were hand-picked from a TCM special.