Published Mar 25, 2016Halifax's Erin Costelo has one of those voices — striking, powerful and full of depth and range — not unlike that of Alabama Shakes' Brittany Howard or the legendary Mavis Staples (whom she opened for at the 2014 Halifax Jazz Festival). Honestly, the woman's got soul for days, and shows it clearly and confidently in the fun she has with her vocal runs, flips and lyrical quips on Down Below, The Status Quo, her fourth album.
Down Below came together in Dartmouth, NS, at Joel Plaskett's New Scotland Yard studio. Gorgeously produced, though not quite as 1960s lounge-inspired as her previous release, 2012's We Can Get Over, these ten tunes run the gamut from bouncy soulful toe-tappers (opener "Move") to booming Dusty Springfield-esque and brass-driven ("Low"), to heartfelt, harp-plucked reflections ("Quiet The Bombs") and powerful, Joe Cocker-tinged tunes ("Wake Up"). The record boasts warm horns, plucked guitars, round bass and great backing vocals, all beautifully produced and mixed to perfection.
Highlight track "Fighter" is a punchy number, starting off with a simple but captivating five notes on piano. The theme of love as a fight runs throughout the record: "Lay down your weapons slow," Costelo sings in "Move," and she makes the curious lyrical comparison "every night we love like traffic cops, first we start and then we stop, then we start and then we stop, then we yield to all the things that we are not" on "Everyday."
Costelo has a knack for classic songwriting methods, à la Randy Newman and Carole King, unapologetically adhering to the formula piano plus great vocal chops plus lovelorn lyrics to equal quality. There's nothing wrong with sentimentality paired with a neat little piano hook.
If you're pining for a record that is smooth and soulful, give Down Below, The Status Quo a spin. At the very least, you'll be impressed by Costelo's voice, if not her formidable turn here as arranger, producer and, particularly, songwriter. (Venue Records)