Album Review: “Love Songs & Lullabies” by Deb Cavanaugh

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Love Songs & Lullabies, the latest release from Deb Cavanaugh, is an Americana album through-and-through, steeped in bucolic imagery, and containing a myriad of emotions ranging from longing, reminiscence, appreciation, and more. However, one shouldn’t start thinking that is all this record has to offer. The first track, “Deep Ellum Blues,” is a cover of a traditional song. That being said, it was very interesting to hear the unusual – at least to this listener – way in which Deb employs a reggae feel to the music as a way of delivering this particular tune. Changing direction to a more Americana and folk sound, “It’s Gonna Be Cold Outside” (second track) follows, bringing with it the first instance of Deb’s use of music to reinforce her lyric. Although the chorus in this song doesn’t rhyme, the way in which the chords are accentuated over the part where you’d expect a rhyme, brings attention to a lack thereof, thus causing tension within the song in an effective way. 

“Let the Rain Come” (track three), a song that embodies the adage, “don’t bore us, get to the chorus,” features a return to more of a reggae inspired sound. The call-and-response sections of the chorus is a nice addition to this song. It was nice to hear the following track, “We Danced to Black Velvet,” feature more of her Americana sound. By doing so, Deb set up an oscillation between reggae and Americana among her first four songs on the album that bordered on jarring, albeit in a refreshing way. When she sings the lyric, “so, we danced for a while ‘til we started to stumble, both lost our footing, and fell,” the music drops out on the final word, effectively painting a narrative of the song with the instrumentation. After this song, the album roots itself more and more into being an Americana over the course of the next two songs, “Hot Coffee in Bed,” and “In Winter” – the latter of which being my favorite song on the album. 

“Finest Man,” (track seven), was somewhat unexpected to this listener as not only does it feature guitar solos, but also incorporates, albeit briefly, a drum solo of all things! One thing is clear: don’t get too comfortable with what you can expect from this artist, as you never know what may be musically waiting around the corner. “The Raindrop Song” (track nine), is another nice change of pace in this album, as it is mainly driven forward by bass, drums, and a saxophone. Not only, but it features another great example of how Deb can utilize a lyric to help influence the music that is played underneath. When the lyric, “and I like to listen to that syncopated beat,” is sung, for example, the drummer plays this type of rhythm. The song ends with cheers and laughter, giving it a nice “live-and-in-the-studio” effect. Her album closes with “Lullaby” and “All is Well,” tracks ten and eleven, respectively. Both of these songs are beautiful in lyric and in music, evoking tender emotions of love, reminiscent, and an endearing look toward the future.

Throughout this album, an overarching sense of Americana and folk sounds are present. Although Deb’s voice may sound tired and mature in some areas of the music, by hearing the way in which this album was crafted in terms of song structure, musical devices, and overall production, one thing is certain: she has a hell of a lot more left to say. 

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