Soul on Display
It takes some gut for a white girl from Knoxville, Iowa, to use “Soul” in her debut CD’s title. But Finken can, as they say in the parlance, bring it. She has a voice and delivery with the buttery depth of Annie Lennox, the effortless blues edge of Bonnie Raitt, and the complete lack of fear that marks Aretha Franklin’s singing. She’s more of a rock belter than a soul singer, but that’s okay — she doesn’t add those annoying, pointless melismatic curlicues so popular in modern R&B.
Of course, you’d have to be fearless if you’re a female singer and you cover a song made famous by Aretha Franklin, “Do Right Woman.” Finken transforms it into a more up-tempo funk idiom, and does okay, but there isn’t a singer on earth that should invite comparison with Aretha. More successful are songs like “Possible Impossible,” which brings to mind Alanis Morissette’s mid-tempo songs. But in a good way. Really. It’s catchy, with expensive sounding flourishes like a string arrangement, and where Morissette bawls, Finken stays sweet.
The very next song “Knee Deep” is just Finken and a slightly out-of-tune piano, and lord can the girl sell it. The real hook to Bonne Finken’s work is that she never looks before she leaps. The belting climax of “Knee Deep” may seem a bit much to some people, but I like that she seems to go to that extreme naturally, and not as some sort of American Idol-esque bathetic pandering. “My City of Industry” shines as much for the interesting arrangement as her singing — based around programmed dance beats with echoey synth lines, it’s an unholy of ’80s British synth pop and Finken’s very un-British emotional delivery.
If you visit Ms. Finken’s website, you can read her inspiring back story, but I won’t repeat it here, because while it might inform her music, the music itself doesn’t need any propping up by the singer’s biography. The songs, and the voice behind them, can stand by themselves.