Melissa Carper’s buoyant vocals carry her across a variety of music styles on her energizing, eclectic new album, Ramblin’ Soul (out now on MAE Music).
Carper is just as comfortable skittering across the dance hall floor on a rockabilly rhythm as she is laying back languorously to a jazz syncopation or a slinky blues. Her vocals envelop us with warmth, humor, and honesty, echoing the raw authenticity of Elizabeth Cook and the emotional vibrato of Patsy Cline.
The album kicks off with the title track—a bright Western swing number that glides along Chris Scruggs’s pedal steel strains and John Pahmer’s tinkling keys. It’s hard not to jump up and dance across the floor when the needle hits this song’s grooves.
The rockabilly tune “Zen Buddha” zips along with its towering doo-wop refrain. Its title functions as a mantra that Carper repeats over and over, though its enlightenment is not necessarily spiritual.
The bluesy, classic-country pop of “Ain’t a Day Goes By” combines sonic echoes of Patsy Cline’s “He’s Got You” with Sam Cooke’s “Bring It on Home to Me.” Pahmer’s Floyd Cramer-like piano plays call-and-response with the ethereal strains of his own B3.
“Texas, Texas, Texas” is another rockabilly that scoots along Billy Contreras’ scampering fiddle and Scruggs’s layers of steel. The country-jazz of “I Don’t Need You” rides along sonic echoes of Helen Cornelius’ and Jim Ed Brown’s classic “I Don’t Want to Have to Marry You.”
Carper’s version of Odetta’s “Hit or Miss” captures the emotional defiance and power of the original with its soulful choruses that declare the singer’s determination to be herself no matter what. Then the album closes with the ‘60s soul-pop sound—think Leslie Gore—of “Hanging on to You.”
Ramblin’ Soul showcases Carper’s canny songwriting, her effervescent vocals, and her ability to convey the range of human emotion in short, catchy songs. Her vibes echo classic sounds, and her hooks and melodies will grab you from the first note.
Ramblin’ Soul is available HERE.