Lydia René graced these pages for the first time in 2009, but over the years we’ve struggled by on crumbs from this soulful young lady. An EP here, a single there, all the while waiting patiently for a full plate of nourishing soul food to head our way. That day has finally come with the release of Vintage Heart, and it was worth the wait, as this is a bright, shimmering spring day of an album, crammed with the warmth, color and vibrancy of her adopted home, Los Angeles. Filled with Lydia’s impressive vocals, acoustic guitar and lyrics of depth and honesty, it should even bring some of that warmth home to listeners.
Intro track “Nice to Meet You” finds us reciprocating that sentiment, as acoustic guitar threads through and between Lydia’s light-as-a-breeze vocals in the background while she has a conversation in the foreground. During the convo she shares her purpose: to sing about love and relationships -- the good, the bad and the ugly. The laid-back “Only In Time” is all finger snaps and soulful guitar while she spins a tale of resisting temptation. It’s a delightful, swirling melange of sounds which only serves to underline how talented she really is. Because in addition to writing the vast majority of the album, she co-produced most of it, too.
“Feels So Nice” sticks out as being the one track not produced by Lydia. It feels more contemporary in its sound, but it still fits her like a glove. The shuffling, Stevie Wonder-esque funk of “Last Night” is a delight with its tale of an intelligent, strong woman aware of the scarcity and fairy tale nature of love (or lust?) at first sight, but nonetheless falling for it. It offers the best glimpse of her vocal range, stretching urgently in response to her newfound love. The interlude “Where Are You?” is a tease of a snippet yet satisfying. The electric guitar of "True Love" is a welcome complement to René's range on full display here. “That’s Life,” with it finger snaps and guitar driven stride, has hint of vocoder to complete the retro-funk feel of it.
As vocal showcases go, album closer “Cares Chorus” is a doozy. It’s a short but exceedingly sweet gem. Winsomely romantic strings and that ever-present acoustic guitar combine to swooning effect to produce a genuinely sweet and affecting end to an album of such great promise. Despite the brevity, it provides a chance for Lydia to show her range. and it hallmarks her work further.
Vintage Heart has many strengths, including the fact that nothing outstays its welcome. Songs don’t drag and, at a relatively short nine songs, the album stays tightly focused and cohesive. It’s a genuine delight to hear the guitar take center stage on a soul record that, while looking back in time for its influences, also demonstrates the voice of an artist laying the foundation for a very positive future.
Lydia René Vintage Heart [Bandcamp]