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Sabrina Comellas, 'Sabrina'


Published October 2, 2019 at 10:00 a.m.

Sabrina Comellas, Sabrina
  • Sabrina Comellas, Sabrina

(Self-released, digital)

Sabrina Comellas is a gifted Burlington-based singer-songwriter. She has been honing her songs and chops, as one does, through steady gigs at mainstay venues such as Radio Bean and ArtsRiot. While her live show is generally a raw, powerful spectacle, her debut album, Sabrina, is a much different animal: This is lush, slickly produced and ready for prime time.

"Frisson" is the operative word here: Comellas has a voice that induces goose bumps. (I invite any reader to try this out and see if you disagree.) The top of her register is always slightly broken, but she hits her notes with such confidence that it's extra hot sauce instead of a distraction. When she really lets her pipes rip, it's all blues. There are no glossy "American Idol" runs here.

Yet her singing is hardly the full extent of her voice: Comellas is a remarkably good songwriter, too. She has a natural knack for building verses that go somewhere; every line has a purpose. Although her writing is literate and whip smart, it's also accessible and flat-out catchy. This is a recipe for reaching a huge audience.

The album opens with "Romeo." This knockout single cuts to the bone and mines classic Shakespeare for new, resonant insights. County Tracks blogger Ray Padgett called it "the best Romeo and Juliet song since Dire Straits." High praise, indeed, but he's not kidding. The track also features some lovely guitar work by Alex Bennett of Tongue & Cheek.

From there, Comellas threads together a collage of styles, all orbiting around the overstuffed container that is "Americana." There's down-tempo folk ("Maybe I Love Them"), jazzy rock ballads ("Don't Worry I'll Fix It") and the haunted panorama of "Remembering," a showstopping moment on an impressive project.

That leads into the equally strong "Relapse," a duet that features superb guest vocals from Eric George, who is among Burlington's most recognizable country music singers. It's a complex little love song, both bitter and warm, and the duo's voices make a perfect combination.

Sabrina is also a real landmark for Colin McCaffrey, the engineer and producer who put all this together at his East Montpelier studio, the Greenroom. His approach really pays off here: Arrangements are huge and spacious, never cluttered or busy.

The album's two closing cuts hit almost like a single movement. "What the World Looks Like" is a slow burn that approaches gospel. It also features some of the most cutting songwriting on the album and becomes a stunning vocal showcase as it picks up steam. I was floored the first time I heard it.

The lullaby melancholy of "Runaway Bullet" is a perfect closing note. It's the most stripped-down track on the album, which only makes it more powerful as the curtain drops.

Sabrina is among the very best Vermont debuts I've ever heard. Give this a try on Spotify. Today.