I first encountered Giovanina Bucci's songs three years ago. The Plattsburgh, N.Y., native was singing and playing rhythm guitar with Nina's Brew, an acoustic trio that had just put out its debut record, Don't Tell Mama. Solid, if not spectacular, that album hinted at the trio's potential. Bucci's talent was evident, but the songs felt a little too comfortable.
Storytellers isn't Bucci's first solo foray outside of Nina's Brew, who are largely inactive these days. But it is her first since 2015's A Bit of Alright. Though it's been a while since Bucci was out on her own, her latest record is the closest she has come to realizing her full potential.
Bucci's songwriting is as idiosyncratic as always. The new songs brim with the Burlington-based artist's narrative style. Even on a track as dark as "Using Me," a song about trying to break free from a no-good lover, her clear and melodious voice remains firmly in the light. The arrangements are equally breezy, creating a bright, jazzy romp of a song.
"Oh, I don't want nothing fancy / I ain't fancy /A woodstove burning like the love I share with you," sings Bucci on "30 Miles," a gentle folk number. Lyrically, she excels at spinning down-home, yearning country tales. Her songs are cut from a very Vermont cloth: As they play, it's easy to envision dirt roads cutting through green hills, old barns in the woods and Technicolor sunsets on Lake Champlain.
What gives Storytellers an edge over Bucci's earlier work is the fleshed-out nature of the songs and production. Singer-songwriter Ryan Montbleau produced the record and dials in an organic, no-frills sound with just a hint of classic Nashville.
Bucci's backing band is no joke, either. Local gunslinger Bob Wagner lays down tasteful guitar licks throughout, leaning into his country-rock side. Wagner brings along his Kat Wright bandmate, upright bassist Josh Weinstein, who also adds harmony vocals. Drummer Dwight Ritcher (Dwight & Nicole) and keyboardist Jay Lesage round out the band.
Most of Storytellers was recorded live in the studio. Its songs have the in-the-pocket feel and energy of a well-rehearsed band whose members are excited by the material. It's easy to see why they would be.
Bucci is a talented songwriter with a voice that carries uncommon intimacy. With Storytellers, she has crafted a record of emotive country and folk music that is not only a good listen but is suffused with equal parts personality and musicianship.
Stream Storytellers on Spotify and Apple Music, and learn more at giovaninabucci.com.