I don’t think there’s a worse crime in music than being predictable. You never want to walk into any artist’s discography knowing what you’re going to get because that takes the fun out of it. Music enlightens the soul and stems beautiful things such as creativity and positivity. There is no room for predictability.
California native Cheryl Desere’e is anything except predictable. With a voice that is clearly jazz influenced with a sound that embodies the best of the traditional country sound, Cheryl Desere’e is an artist all her own. The closest comparison I could make would be someone like Lindi Ortega who also embodies a bluesy soulful country sound. Cheryl Desere’e proves on her self-titled debut album that she’s here to stay.
Of course, the sadder moments are just as, if not more effective. “Diamond Valley R.V” tells of a female protagonist whose mother is involved with a controlling man who squanders her dreams. While this isn’t a concept album, it’s interesting to see some of the tracks intertwine with each other. This theme of living with a destructive person you shouldn’t be with is visited again on “Sin Eater” where our female protagonist is the one involved with a dangerous man this time. She doesn’t know why she stays, she just knows she can’t leave. The actual answer is laid out before that on “Loving Beyond My Means” where she states she’s just lonely and needs someone, something that everyone can relate to.
In addition to sadness there are some beautiful bitter tracks such as the album highlight “Rabbit Hole” where the aftermath of a bad breakup continuously haunts our female protagonist. Album closer “Don’t Look Now” sees Cheryl join up with musician Ben Douglas to deliver us a tale of a crumbling love from the perspective of both sides. They both put up facades in front of their kids but the love is definitely gone.
Of course, the best part about this album is arguably the sound. I already stated that Cheryl has a voice built for jazz with a sound seeped in traditional country and really, that’s all that needs to be said. You’ll find some great steel guitar on many tracks, the best examples being “Cactus Flower”, and the ominous sounding “Rabbit Hole”. Elsewhere you’ll find some great fiddle and mandolin. “Wildfire” is the best example of that sweet mandolin sound I’m referring to. However, it isn’t until track number four that you hear the jazz influence.
In an era of music where so many people are inserting horns into their music to be “edgy” and “trendy”, Cheryl is doing it because it’s the type of music she grew up with. Tracks such as “Stage Door Jenny” and “Keep My Name Off Your Lips” work so damn well because the horns are actually placed in a jazz song instead of one trying to masquerade as a strict traditional country song. Cheryl knows her eclectic influences but never lets them clash.
If I were to criticize the album I would say the length is the biggest issue. Debut albums are a big moment in any artist’s career. They’re a chance to show off who an artist is and also gives people a reason for listening to them any further beyond this. This self-titled album certainly hits the checkmarks on those two qualifications, however when several tracks extend over the four minute mark it can be a bit of a stretch, especially at twelve tracks.
Overall though the self-titled album from Cheryl Desere’e is definitely a treat for the ears. In a lot of ways it’s like stepping into a time machine and exploring the old-timey sounds that once comprised both country and jazz music. Cheryl definitely honors her influences on this album, and she’s certainly given me a reason to listen further.
Best Tracks: “Rabbit Hole”, “Sin Eater”, “Wildfire”