Those of you who have enjoyed our musings about Canadian music for several years now may recall our previous interview with Brantford, ON emerging R&B-jazz artist Avery Raquel, where we discussed her outstanding 2018 “My Heart Away” album. Blending elements of jazz, soul, R&B, and pop influences to her signature sound, Avery’s album left a lasting impression – one that could easily convince any listener of being an artist with decades of experience and numerous albums under her belt. So, imagine how surprising it was to learn that, at the time of recording “My Heart Away,” Avery Raquel was splitting time in-between studio sessions with her high school textbooks and homework.
I often prefer to avoid using the phrase “teen sensation” to describe an artist, but all other words failed me when first encountering her music. Avery demonstrated so much maturity in her sound (well beyond her 16 years of age), brought so much ‘real life experience’ to her songwriting, and delivered so much poise and confidence in her professional demeanor. What we had discovered was something too good to be true, and had to be seen to be believed – certainly enough to convince Team GDW to witness Avery’s performance first hand at the 2018 Sound of Music Festival in Burlington, ON. Content to simply hang out with her friends prior to her set, the metamorphosis from a seemingly introverted teenager to a commanding stage presence happened so naturally, itself a marvelous act to observe.
Bidding farewell to her teen years with the arrival of her 20th birthday, Avery kicked off her new personal decade with the release of her latest (and fourth) studio album just last month. This new project consists of 12 original ‘alternative-soul’ tunes, crafted from her own personal love for both the R&B-soul music of the past, and from current contemporary sounds that have followed. It is not shocking, therefore, to learn of Avery’s diverse musical influences, citing Etta James, Carole King, and Amy Winehouse on one hand, while adding Lauryn Hill, Bruno Mars, and Allen Stone on the other. “I really believe this album is a true representation of who I am as an artist. I’ve found my voice, my sound, and the style of music I love to create and perform,” Avery shares. “That’s why I decided to make this album self-titled; it’s like re-introducing Avery Raquel to the world.”
Just a few seconds into the album’s opening track, “When The Love Is Real,” the growth and maturity of Avery’s sound is immediately obvious. The emphasis on her soul-laced vocals to open, accompanied by some stunning and perfectly in-tune backing harmonies, demonstrate an unrivaled quality of sound and polished production. Avery earns your full attention with minimal instrumentation from the off-set, and holds it firmly across the full 36-minute album journey. Regardless which of Avery’s influences align more with those of your own, there really is something here to appease everybody. If you are seeking a sense of little timeless jazz-soul in sound and style, “You Said” and “New Found Happiness” are good places to start. If you err more toward contemporary R&B, “Put Your Love On Me” and “Helpless” provoke an equal level of satisfaction. Naturally, both genres are carefully woven together to fulfil Avery’s “alternative-soul” direction, and to create a well-curated and cohesive track progression.
There are some notable tracks throughout the album that truly stand out from the crowd, mostly due in part to Avery’s lyrical talents and her own “ear” for a good song. “Love In September” certainly leaves no doubts of her sheer vocal potency – controlled, powerful, and hitting the highs and lows with precision as she works through this stunning ballad. She also returns momentarily to her jazz roots during “Taught Me How To Love,” an emotionally charged piano ballad where the vulnerability expressed through her vocals share the spotlight with some very moving piano keys. Honoring her own musical heritage, “Deep In My Mind” proves to be another gorgeous slow-paced, low-key affair – before bursting into a monstrous R&B ballad at various intervals. This particular track perfectly shows Avery’s natural knack for timing and key instrumental changes, and one that presents us with an artist who is not only comfortable fully embracing her musical direction, but one who completely understands and executes the dynamics required to make it work this well. A stunning fourth album that whets the appetite for many more to follow.
Photo Credit: Jemall Earle