Rebekah Todd is a North Carolinian singer/songwriter who grew up surrounded by folk and classic rock while navigating her musical talents. Todd’s previous album Roots Burry Deep was beautifully crafted but her new album, Crooked Lines, is a different beast. An interesting fact about this album is that it was made possible by fans! Todd created 30 original fine art pieces for her Kickstarter campaign, and with the help of 450 fans, Crooked Lines was made possible. From start to finish, the album has a variety of sound with the same distinct, southern blues and soul.
Crooked Lines opens with “Trouble,” one of the few honest to God power ballads on the album. “Trouble” has a soulful groove and husky vocals, akin to the early albums of artists like Joss Stone and Alicia Keys, telling the tale of the hurricane that swept through a woman’s life in the shape of a lover. The lyrics glide smoothly from being belted out to a slow, hinting tease of words. “Trouble” is followed by “Streets of Santiago,” a song you can easily imagine blasted through a southern dive bar. It’s the grittier side of Todd’s music, the dirt and tumbleweeds sister of her usual, smooth croon. Hearing the songs back to back is what made me realize that this album was definitely going to be different than the first.
“Rotten Man” depicts an image every woman seems to find herself in from time to time. This song is the broken record of a friend who is trying to encourage her friend to see that her boyfriend is a dog; it’s a mature and rightfully exhausted story that you can’t help shaking your head at as you listen to the song. “Rotten Man” is such a strong song that the following track, “Till the Wheels Fall Off”, is undoubtedly in its shadow. “Till the Wheels Fall Off” seems to be a fun song about a fun relationship that probably isn’t going to work out but you’re going to have a good time while it lasts. Compared to the more mature beginning songs, though, this one seems like a step backward for Todd.
There were many times that I was reminded of Adele when listening to Crooked Lines but especially “Let Me Prove My Love.” This could fit seamlessly into Adele’s 21 track list, the melodic vocals and the soulful band playing raw and helpless to show someone just how much you care for them. “Can’t Sleep” brings the original blues that came out of the South way back in the 40s and 50s. Rebekah Todd has shown her Southern bones many times both on this new album and on the title track off of her EP Roots Bury Deep. “Can’t Sleep” seems to be a love song to the road, made clear by the lyric “the only time I get any good sleep, talkin bout that good sleep, is when I’m on the road.” Todd has toured quite a bit in her time as an artist and it’s apparent on this track that she loves performing and getting out there on the road.
“Hustle” is a song that brings a funk that thankfully wasn’t left in the 70s. The horns and drums are the perfect complements to the joyous lyrics. There’s certainly a reason that this was the first song released from the album; while listening to “Hustle,” I had to catch myself because I was dancing in my kitchen before I even realized it. This is a song that will have people of every age on their feet.
Both “Tin Roofs” and “Lightning Bugs” are honorable mentions on the album; the folk from Todd’s previous albums making a familiar appearance. However, the record closes with the bittersweet “Wandering Soul” that captures the good and the bad of being a restless, indecisive spirit. Never settling down or growing stagnant is always pictured as an exciting, ideal existence but “Wandering Soul” captures the damage that’s cause along the way, lack of reliability, and, ultimately, the loneliness of being a wanderer. Throughout the chorus, it’s as if Todd is more sad than frustrated for them because, in the end, they’re wandering whatever road they chose by themselves. It’s certainly a beautiful and sobering end to her sophomore album.
After Roots Burry Deep, a good first album that had a very homogenous sound, Rebekah’s second album is a much welcome tasting plate of her musical talents and interests. Crooked Lines is an ode to the bare bones of rock n’ roll, each of the sub-genres that built the huge umbrella of music is represented throughout the album, from gospel to blues to funk. It isn’t very often that you hear an album as genuine and authentic as Crooked Lines. If you’re someone who misses the sound of a full band and a genuinely talented vocalist, this is the album for you.
Rebekah Todd’s second album Crooked Lines debuts on February 17th