New York-based folk singer-songwriter April Martin recently released her sophomore album In The Blink of a Life. The appropriately named record (given its subject matter) follows down a contemplative path of compassion, acceptance, and just a hint of forlorn regret.
Martin’s follow-up to 2010’s Pennies in a Jar feels like a cathartic necessity for the artist. Despite having been heavily influenced by her father’s love of music at an early age, Martin did not pursue applying lyrics to arranged chord progressions until well into her adult life.
Starting the album off with the track “One Breath”, immediately made the reflective theme Martin seemed to be presenting comes to life. With a chorus stating ‘it’s all about now, the why and the how, it’s all about love’, Martin subscribes to the growing global awareness and universality of being present and in the moment.
The most obvious overtone of the album is the championing (almost pleading at times) of one of the most unifying qualities that bind us all, love.
With a vocal cadence hauntingly similar to Mary Chapin Carpenter’s, Martin takes a brief detour from the sound inspired by the four-time (in a row) Grammy-winning artist with “Heartbreak Doesn’t Come”.
The second song “Heartbreak Doesn’t Come” off of the new album reaches us six years removed from Martin’s debut release. Martin’s guitar playing producer Peter Calo leads the listener into “Heartbreak Doesn’t Come”with a more aggressive electric guitar effect than we hear for most of the rest of the LP.
With Calo’s guitar lending “Heartbreak Doesn’t Come” a classic rock vibe, Martin again opens her arms and heart lyrically to the potential of love. Pleading with the subject of her adoration in the song’s storyline the assurance that with her they are safe.
In The Blink of a Life, however, is not without its rough patches. For a genre that often prides itself on simplicity In The Blink of a Life occasionally takes the notion of ‘less is more’ a little too far.
Proving the dichotomy that exists in all of us, Martin effectively takes a song with as beautiful of a title as “My Rock and My Rain”, and proceeds to overly simplify the song’s verses. Throwing all simile out the studio door, “My Rock and My Rain” displays verses penned with some of the more straight-ahead and predictable lyrics one should ever dare lay credit to.
Further to the potpourri of good and not so (good) that is “My Rock and My Rain”, the unconventional delivery of the song’s chorus highlights one of the better aspects of the new album. It is at the chorus of “My Rock and My Rain” that Martin matches strong delivery with strong lyrical content.
If the chorus didn’t lead back into a puzzling in-and-out vocal harmony that sounds like a sync issue in the mixing process, the act of summing up “My Rock and My Rain” would be more decisive.
And so goes much of the In The Blink of a Life album by April Martin. As soon as an aesthetic captures the imagination, it is counterbalanced by a highly questionable decision. For example on “While I’m Waiting”, the song leads with an organic sounding drumming on the acoustic guitar that exudes a certain honesty to the song. The homely drumming touch is then followed up with the peculiar decision to run an effect through the vibrato in the vocal delivery, When the organic elements brush so closely against the experimental, it only serves to strip the track of any identity.
In conclusion, Martin appears confident and assured in a maternal role on In The Blink of a Life.
Much of Martin’s doctorate in clinical psychology is evident through the tender and empathic voice she seems inclined to write from. However, certain decisions and production elements suggest that Martin may not be as assertive in the studio when needed, as one assumes she has to be in her ongoing psychology practice.
Worth keeping an eye on, perhaps the third time can be the charm for April Martin. Assuming there is still room for such superstitions in the mind of a professional psychologist, what is quantifiable is the merit of waiting less than six years putting that third album together.