(Self-released, CD, digital download)
In 2011, Plattsburgh’s Giovanina Bucci emerged from relative obscurity to win the Advance Music Singer/Songwriter Contest, an annual competition that often unearths some previously overlooked gems hiding out in local coffee houses and open-mic nights. However, following that minor upset, Bucci remained something of an unknown commodity in Vermont, perhaps owing to infrequent performances on this side of the lake, or simply the navel-gazing nature of a scene that tends not to keep tabs on music in the Lake City. But on the heels of her recently released debut album, The Road Home, it’s unlikely Bucci will remain a secret much longer. Though at times uneven, it is a sterling first attempt from a clearly gifted singer-songwriter.
Bucci is not a flashy singer. She succeeds largely with a quiet reserve and measured, even tones. She is similarly direct in her songwriting, favoring understated turns of phrase and generally avoiding overwrought sentiments. That’s not to say she lacks passion. Rather, her tasteful approach allows her musings on love and life room to breathe. Her metaphors and melodies have a way of gently finding their way to the listener, rolling in like a light morning fog before dissipating under the warmth of her sunny disposition.
On album opener “A Little Bit,” for example, she longs for a distant lover, pairing a jaunty blues-based acoustic riff with an easy croon and sincere wordplay. “Come a little bit closer now, baby,” she sings. “I wanna feel your hand on my back.”
It’s a simple but touching sentiment, one of several such moments that point to the subtlety of Bucci’s songwriting throughout the record. And when she relies on that low-key approach, The Road Home soars. “Walk You Home” is another sly gem. “Those Hands” is breezy, bluesy and gripping, a tender ode to the rough mitts of a “workin’ man.” “Sweet Distraction” cleverly busts a partner with a wandering eye.
Bucci doesn’t stumble often. But when she does it’s typically a result of overreaching, as on the cloying “Music Maker.” The song pays homage to a musical inspiration, certainly a fine sentiment. It just happens here that Bucci’s earnest hero worship makes for a dull song, an affliction compounded by a subpar vocal performance in which her delivery is uncharacteristically thin and pitchy.
Fortunately, such misses are the exception on The Road Home. Bucci otherwise delivers a debut that is rarely less than solid and is often exceptional.
The Road Home by Giovanina Bucci is available at cdbaby.com.