Callie Hopper – Out of the Shadows
Solo artist is almost always a misnomer as a label. Popular music is, by its very nature, a collaborative art. Few performers are responsible for songwriting, playing the songs, using every instrument, producing the album, and handling the final mix. The concept of a solo performer is valid in certain respects – ultimately, the performer must stand in front of a hopefully paying audience and deliver these songs to them fundamentally unsure whether they will be greeted with cheers or catcalls. Solo artists have to take the collaborative work they do behind the scenes and absolutely own it, bringing it off like no other hand stirred the pot, and captivate listeners on the own merits alone. By this measurement, Callie Hopper is both a rousing success as a collaborator and performer. Her second album Out of the Shadows is a thirteen song collection attesting to her well rounded skills.
“Out of the Shadows” daringly opens the album. It is a sure sign of confidence in the material when an artist shows courage to lead with, nominally, the album’s defining track. If we evaluate this by that standard, Hopper is clearly laying down a gauntlet that she’s far from content to be stuffed into pre-marked boxes. The title song marries her deliciously melodic voice with a surprisingly hard hitting rhythm track hammering with more than a little rock and roll spirit. The third song “Fire and Ice” features band member and frequent co-writer Chad Alexander in a second singer role. The unfettered clarity of his pipes dovetails nicely into Hopper’s own and they take a classic duet approach to the track. “So Much” starts off acoustically, but it soon generates some surprising, low-key rock and roll heat, particularly thanks to the unobtrusive addition of organ to the mix. Hopper gives a coolly confident vocal, tossing the lines aside sometimes sharp, other times coaxing them out more slowly.
“Wishful Thinking” is clearly positioned as one of Out of the Shadows’ marquee numbers and the instinct is correct. It’s one of the few songs on the album not built around the acoustic guitar. Instead, long, impossibly melodic piano lines swirl, rising and falling, while Hopper wraps her voice around the fluid melodies and brings added order to the proceedings. “This Song’s Not For You” isn’t completely carefree, but it’s delightful to hear Hopper shift gears so profoundly into an outright brush off song directed at an unworthy lover. She delivers her vocal with great relish. “Goodbye” is pure country tearjerker that Hopper invests with a modern sound and sensibility. There’s no standing by your man or feeling so lonesome you could cry, but there’s little doubt that Hopper fills the song with the sort of desolate grief the genre demands for such numbers. The album’s closing song, “Chasing a Dream”, hints at some rabble rousing quasi-anthem to wrap things up, but Hopper opts for a muted, delicate ending instead. There’s a quiet resolve suggested by the music, lyrics, and vocal that makes this a final highlight. Out of the Shadows reaches beyond mere labels and, instead, touches the heart.
9 out of 10 stars.