Summer is at last here, and leave it to New York native and Austin music mainstay Charlie Faye to have provided us with one of the first must-have, window-down soundtracks for the season! In shaping Charlie Faye and The Fayettes, her tribute to the girl-group sound, the singer-songwriter has clearly done her homework. This brisk and breezily enjoyable listen places Faye’s voice up front over sweet, honeyed group harmonies on eleven, new hook-filled tunes.
Faye wrote or co-wrote every swaying, swooning song on the LP, with producer Dave Way conjuring a rich instrumental backdrop of guitars, organs, saxophones and even a glockenspiel. This tribute to a gone-but-not-forgotten musical era is happily lacking in irony even as the songs’ lyrics trade in the same heartbreak that fueled the Second Era of the Great American Songbook, i.e. Goffin and King, Mann and Weil, Bacharach and David, Barry and Greenwich, and so on.
If Faye’s previous work didn’t hint at the full-on salute to the era heard here, she has referenced Carole King, Neil Young and James Taylor as influences; indeed, she’s channeling her inner King (“Goffin and” style) on this impeccable collection of retro-flavored originals. This is indeed Americana, at least in the broadest sense of the genre and of how that uniquely “American” strain of soul-pop continues to influence artists today.
The melodic, bright and bouncy “Green Light” (“You’ve got the green light baby/Why are we taking things so slow?”) opens Charlie Faye and The Fayettes with a piano recalling the melody of The Fortunes’ “Here Comes That Rainy Day Feeling Again.” There’s a darker tinge and sultry vibe to “Loving Names” with Phil Spector-esque drums (well, maybe that should be Hal Blaine-esque drums) and eerie, reverb-laden guitar, but the producer’s famed Wall of Sound is more directly referenced on “Coming Round the Bend” as its central riff deftly evokes that of Jeff Barry and Ellie Greenwich’s “Then He Kissed Me.”
The elongated phrases and beguiling changes of the lightly rhythmic ballad “Carelessly” summon the elegance of Bacharach or Tony Hatch without aping either. It also compares favorably with the best “sophisti-pop” of Swing Out Sister or Everything But the Girl. All that’s missing from this shimmering production is a horn arrangement, preferably for a flugelhorn! On the other end of the spectrum is the brass, swaggering “Eastside,” driven by a dirty, Stax-style groove. Faye’s sassy delivery on the track seems inspired by Ronnie Spector for a north-south fusion that’s hard to resist.
Elsewhere, Faye melds disparate sounds. The taut guitar of “Sweet Little Messages” flashes forward to later in the 1960s than the earlier Brill Building-inspired, girl group songs as it fuses the trio’s cooing, shimmering vocals with a tighter, soulful groove. The bittersweet yet hopeful “One More Chance” has the Motown slow burn of “You’ve Really Got a Hold on Me,” and a nonstop beat and honking horns charge “See You Again” (“I made up my mind/I gotta see you again…”) take the girls into the realm of power pop.
Lesley Gore would have been at home with the perky rhythm of “Delayed Reaction,” which showcases Faye’s originality. Its lean arrangement isn’t as evocative of the era as many of the other tracks here, playing more like a spacey hoedown. Soon, though, Charlie Faye and The Fayettes returns back to earth on an uplifting note of romantic renewal via “It’s All Happening.”
One wonders if Charlie Faye will continue mining this rich vein of pop on future releases; if so, there shouldn’t be anybody complaining. Reconnecting with her New York roots, this talented Austin-based artist has created a bit of musical magic. Charlie Faye and The Fayettes is currently available on CD and DD, though a vinyl release might seem most appropriate! It can be ordered below!
Charlie Faye and The Fayettes (Bigger Better More Records, 2016) (Amazon U.S.)
- Green Light
- Loving Names
- Sweet Little Messages
- Coming Round the Bend
- One More Chance
- See You Again
- Delayed Reaction
- It’s All Happening