(Self-released, CD, digital download)
Contrary to popular belief, being a musician is hard goddamn work. While fables of obscure singers rising to stardom make for good rock-journo copy, the reality is that such Cinderella stories are just that: fairy tales. To make it in music requires thick skin, a stiff upper lip and an almost inhuman level of dedication to one’s craft. Writing, recording, touring and promoting yourself is grueling and often thankless. Only a special type of person can deal with the inevitable frustrations, failures and indignities that almost seem mandatory along the road to success.
Burlington’s Myra Flynn understands this well. The neo-soul songstress has displayed tireless dedication throughout her songwriting career as she has inched, little by little, toward the top. It’s been a bumpy road at times. Flynn’s 2009 debut album, Crooked Measures, though promising, was an accurate reflection of a struggling songwriter still getting her bearings. Since then, Flynn has pressed on, relentlessly gigging, writing and networking. Now, with the release of her stirring sophomore follow-up, For the Record, she is ready to reap the fruit of her relentless labor.
Where Crooked Measures introduced Flynn as a talented but somewhat insecure singer, For the Record reveals a mature and self-assured diva. From the album’s hushed opening strains on the cunningly titled “Expectations,” Flynn serves notice that she has arrived. Gone are girlish flights of thin, falsetto fancy. Instead, she delivers sensuous, full-bodied heart and soul that demands attention.
Flynn’s writing and arrangements have similarly developed, from sturdy but derivative musings to full-fledged ingenuity. Much like her mentor, local pop prince Gregory Douglass, Flynn seems unafraid to challenge not only her own boundaries but those of the pop archetypes within which she exists.
“Emergency” is a shifty, scintillating rocker, while “Memo” sounds something like Beyoncé fronting TV on the Radio. “Say So” is a playfully cheeky pop charmer that explodes at the finish. And “Pretty Face” revisits the tender R&B-tinged neo-soul for which Flynn is best known. Throughout the record, she crafts lush, orchestral pop suites as engaging as they are inventive.
From start to finish, there’s hardly a weak link among the record’s 11 tracks. Even fleeting lesser moments, such as the meandering, borderline-precious “Broken Down Baby,” are rescued by Flynn’s confident, forceful approach. And more often than not, she executes them with a grace, style and class that can only come from experience. Congratulations, Myra Flynn. Your work has paid off in spades.
Flynn celebrates the release of For the Record this Friday, August 5, at the Black Door in Montpelier, and at the Spruce Peak Performing Arts Center in Stowe on Saturday, August 6, with Gregory Douglass.