If the 1960s Playtone label wasn’t a fictional construct of That Thing You Do, the label’s A&R rep would surely have signed Charlie Faye. Her spin on soul-tinged girl-group pop echoes the pastiches of Diane Dane and the Chantrellines, and in turn tips a hat to the sources from which the film drew. Faye’s soulful roots can be heard in 2013’s You Were Fine, You Weren’t Even Lonely, but the complicated, contemporary posture of that outing is shed as she and the Fayettes explore the romantic trevailds of the early ‘60s. Faye’s traded her solo spotlight and singer-songwriter stool for vintage party dresses and harmony singers.
A New York native, there’s Bacharach-like sophistication in the melody of “Carelessly,” but her adopted Austin surfaces in the twang of “Loving Names.” The soul sound moves further south with the fluid bass line and Memphis-styled guitar of “Sweet Little Messages.” Faye’s songs are filled with the sort of elemental heartbreak that made the Brill Building famous and its songs so memorable. On the surface, this might seem pedestrian compared to the complex emotions of You Were Fine, but writing 100 universally affecting words is often more difficult than writing 1,000 that are more specific and personal.
Faye’s struck a rich vein of new love, broken hearts and second chances - the sort whose first discovery feels like the end of the world, and whose repetition turns out to be the harder lesson. “Coming Round the Bend” borrows the signature riff and optimistic flash of “Then He Kissed Me,” and the bouncy “Delayed Reaction” nods to Jackie DeShannon’s “Breakaway.” The album stretches beyond the coy boundaries of ‘60s girl groups with the opener “Green Light,” and though “Eastside” could usher dancers down a Soul Train line, its Stax-styled groove and horn chart service a serious look at social gentrification.
Faye’s previous albums didn’t exactly draw a line to this retro set, but the surprise is more in the landing spot than the journey. Faye’s repeatedly proved herself an adventurous artist who is committed to her muse. Her 2009 debut, Wilson Street, honored the Austin community into which she’d knit herself, and 2011’s Travels With Charlie was recorded over ten months of collaboration with artists in ten different cities. She follows her artistic desire, and when that led to the girl-group sound, she banded together with BettySoo and Akina Adderley, wrote a terrific batch of 60s-tinged originals, drew up some choreography, and dove in head first. [©2016 Hyperbolium]