Colleen McFarland has an enticing, high register, warbling voice that's instantly engaging within a country folk pop sound. Let It Shine is her fourth CD, and the erudition of the past shows well in it, resulting in an extremely fetching effort. Every cut swims in lavish treatment and considered arrangements, not a single track less than absorbing.
London demonstrates a vocal approach simultaneously delicate and strong, ringing out with warmth and concern amid the heartache of the temporal world, always looking to the future with hope. Everything here is relationship centered, and, even if that's not your cuppa, McFarland's voice and the disc's instrumentation are virtues in and of themselves. On the other hand, whoever thought about putting a tuba, trombone, and trumpet in a mainstream love song? Well, Colleen did and they work beautifully, Dave Jacques playing all three like a one-man N'awleans back section, McFarland's chipper refrains dancing and frolicking atop.
This is indeed, as my words should be indicating, chart material. Would to God the radio carried more like it, I might turn on damned music radio once in a while, because there's nothing like a good melody and a well carried tune. Naturally, the CD isn't all happy highways and hail fellow well mets—what with Suicide Road exploring self-destruction and bad decisions, the Ronstadt side of McFarland emerging—but that darker element also has its undeniable attractions.
Interestingly, her selection of the Bhagavad Gita's line "It is better to live your own destiny imperfectly than to live an imitation of someone else's life with perfection" was a particularly choice epigram for the sentiments of Let It Shine…and if she wants to read a fascinating account of the ancient document, I suggest picking up Phulgenda Sinha's The Gita As It Was, showing that the esteemed book is not really quite what people think it is, nor are, for instance, the sage Nichiren's thoughts (an' ya hafta read the liner notes to understand why I even say that).
Colleen McFarland: Press
Music Row Online (Robert Oermann, Jan. 2009)
The title tune to this lady's CD is an earnest, sweet number with a certain drawling charm, a steady-jaunty rhythm and a cool, wheezing brass section.
She kinda sounds like your friend down the street. Extremely likable.
American Rhythm Music Magazine (January 2009)
Another fantastic Alt. country gal, Colleen McFarland even throws in a horn section on a track or two. This is her fourth CD, and it’s a keeper. Another great CD for the 2009 music season.
Now this is straightforward. Not in the bad way, it just is what it is: singer/songwriter performance with a serious country edge to it all.
Not bullshitted, not pretentious: just Mcfarland and her songs, played how she wants them.
You can hear the songs as her own, strongly backed by her voice and guitar, with everything else as backup and periphery.
Heartfelt songs, for the most part incredibly positive in nature, make for a great release. Hopefully Mcfarland will keep at this, because she's onto something!" John Shelton Ivany - Top 21, issue 339
With 16 powerful songs on her third album, 10 of which top or come close to the five-minute mark, Colleen McFarland has plenty to say. After one spin of Beautiful Lie, you'll be a rapt listener. Growing up the youngest of nine kids in a three-bedroom home, McFarland likely spent her formative years fighting for a chance to be heard over the din of seven sisters and a brother. Perhaps that's where the origins of the yearning, aching melodies in songs such as "The Last Cloud", "Shelter Me' and the epic, seven minute "Rain" can be traced.
With a voice reminiscent of Emmylou Harris, McFarland has the ability to alternately soothingly sing and growl a menacing blues number like "Ten Years" and offer lilting pop such as "Sordid Affair" (the phrasing of which brings to mind Genesis' "In Too Deep"). The title "Beautiful Lie" may imply a deception of sorts, but the truth of the matter is it harkens the arrival of a refreshingly original voice and talent."
From my first listen, "Beautiful Lie" became one of my favorite CDs of all time. Colleen McFarland's vocals and lyrics are amazing. If you haven't heard this CD or caught Colleen live, you're missing out.
- Rachel Doyle
KMOX Radio 1120 AM
St. Louis, MO
Like Buddy Miller or Lucinda Williams, McFarland infuses the blues into her mid-tempo roots-rock tunes, giving them a gritty feel and for-the-ages mysticism that keeps her lyrics from falling into the self-obsessive indulgence of many other singer-songwriters. She doesn't force herself or her songs on listeners, instead keeping her smoky alto evenly tempered so it drips with inner strength and sensuality. Her songs draw the attention they need on their own, with a compelling mix of dreamy imagery and direct emotion. When she whispers "I don't wann be good', to a potential lover, she's not just encouraging him to step forward: she's also communicating that she wants to break beyond conventional niceties to taste the more voluptuous fruits of experience.
--Michael McCall, Nashville Scene, August 2006
" this beautiful collection of songs from her album " beautiful lie " reminds me of patty griffin a little , sometimes beth nielson chapman , kim richey too , but above all a new voice to our shores here in uk; hopefully one day you will follow these artists too and delight our audiences and readers . "
"she has never sung better..as producer, she has crafted her best record yet, devising gorgeous arrangments every time. As songwriter, she sculpts each song with elegance and grace. In the end, the album is about nuance..utterly exquisite album.."
"Sorrowfully beautiful songs by an extraordinary vocal artist" Rob Lincoln, cdreviewsonline.com
Colleen McFarland is a performer you do not forget. The first time I saw her on stage it became evident within moments that I was hearing a truly major talent. Her jaw dropping vocal abilities that she displayed that night and on her two highly acclaimed CDs, Speaking In Rhymes (1998) and Three Miles From Odessa (2001) are part of what makes her stand out among many other fine singer songwriters. In Beautiful Lie, her long awaited third release, she takes a more subtle path, eschewing her gospel and rhythm and blues influences and concentrating on a very meditative country influenced approach. The result is her most moving work yet. It is a CD that requires repeated listens, as many of the songs do not come at you right away, (although the lead off track is extremely catchy and deserves serious airplay). This is a CD that is highly intimate and occassionally painful as it mostly deals with the end of a relationship. But it is also cathartic both for the listener (and I suspect the performer) as it moves toward a positive resolution with two of the strongest songs on the CD, the uplifting The Best Is Yet To Come and the catchy country ditty The Perfect Ending. The favorite songs are:
1) Ten Years-This first cut is immediately riveting in its angst as well as its seriously catchy hook. It would fit perfectly on adult alternative playlists as well as alt country stations. It almost sounds like its been around forever---always a sign that a great song has been born.
2) Rain- Like many of the songs on this CD, the singer bares her soul and shares the pain of a relationship that has ended. This one in particular moves me because of its honest statement that may not seem particularly attractive, but completely human...especially for an artist who has a creative outlet to express her hurt. "I want you to see all this rain comin down on me." It also displays her subtleties as a vocalist and her ability to move the listener with a simple catch in her voice.
3) The Best Is Yet To Come- Is the only song on this CD that hints at McFarland's explosive power as a vocalist. There is a bit of gospel feel in this one. The message is clear and universal. It is also much needed after the contemplatively beautiful songs that come before it.
4) Cross The Line- This is a fine country song that one could hear a number performers covering. McFarland sings it with a breathy restraint and the entire song is barely three minutes...simple, succinct and perfect. It sounds like a classic.
5) A Cold Wind Blows- Of many fine songs about the dissolution of a relationship, this one appears to be a different type of loss. I can't tell whether someone she knew was killed in an airplane crash or on 9/11. But it doesn't really matter. This song contains the most memorable line of the cd "I'd like to turn this day right into tomorrow." Anyone who has suffered through loss can understand that.
6) The Perfect Ending- Pure country without the alt. This tune that ends the CD has a very different feel with traditional country instrumentation and a McFarland vocal with some extra country twang. It leaves you with a smile, though you may shed a few tears along the way.
7) The Last Cloud- Contains some of the most beautiful instrumental work on the CD. The song soars once the string section comes in.
I was extremly impressed with the production on this CD. When I looked to see who produced it, it was none other than the artist herself, Colleen McFarland. This was quite an accomplishment. She sang, played acoustic guitar and produced this CD in addition to writing all the songs for this generously long CD--16 songs in all!
I recommend this CD for anyone wanting to hear beautiful songs with a country flavor that are highly emotional and personal. I also recommend everyone who appreciates a great vocalist to catch this performer live, you will not be disappointed.
Colleen has the voice of an angel. One particular track was a beautiful tribute to any blues player. "The Best Is Yet To Come" is definitely a gem. The album is wonderfully played & produced. Thank you for sharing this with me. If I can be of any further help, please let me know. Thank you,
Music Guru Show
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Colleen McFarland hollows out the hurts of lost love with a gritty realism [and] encapsulates solid songwriting that is all her own."
Joey Hood, American Songwriter
"Beautiful Lie is a hit record.
Hit songs from a powerhouse voice that knows the delicate art of how to be a true stylist. If you haven't heard Colleen McFarland sing, you should."
--Kelly Ann Monahan, Nashville radio announcer and journalist
'brought a tear to this glass eye.'
Grimey's New & Pre-Loved Music & The Basement
1604 8th ave so.
Nashville, Tn. 37203
IT'S ETHEREAL, AND THEN IT'S AS EARTHY AS A PRIMAL SIGH; IT'S WORLD-WEARY RESIGNATION, AND THEN IT'S A MERCIFUL RAIN. THE ESSENCE OF THE "BEAUTIFUL LIE" IS THAT SENSE OF BALANCE BETWEEN PAIN AND REDEMPTION. AND WHAT BETTER VEHICLE TO PULL IT OFF THAT THE VOICE OF COLLEEN MCFARLAND, A MUSICAL INSTRUMENT UNTO ITSELF THAT REVEALS ITSELF OVER MULTIPLE LISTENS AS AN ONION REVEALS ITSELF, IN LAYERS. SO MANY INDIE RELEASES SUFFER FROM THE "RECORDED IN VARIOUS STUDIOS" SYNDROME, BUT NOT THIS ONE. FROM START TO FINISH, THE DISC CARRIES OFF A VIBE THAT DOESN'T QUIT. AND IT'S A POWERFUL ONE. IT'S ABOUT 'SLOW HOOKS', THE KIND THAT TAKE THEIR TIME TO SINK INTO YOUR SYNAPSES, BUT THEN REFUSE TO LET GO.
Steve Mitchell, Songwriter, member of "The Paperboys"
"In a town full of great singers and songwriters it's easy to get jaded and blase but Colleen's the real deal, Beautiful Lie stayed in my
car CD player for days at a time, great songs, soulful singing and wonderful production and arrangements".
Nashville studio musician,
Dixie Chicks and Patty Loveless touring bands
Colleen McFarland's crystal voice and alt-country grooves are as smooth and compelling as a sip of cool spring water on a hot summer day. The only problem we have at Ri'chard's Cafe' is that our dinners want to stay for hours and listen; not so good for table turn-over. But, not a bad price to pay to hear Colleen and her extremly talented friends fill the room with haunting melodies and lyrical statements that make you feel that she knows you and is willing to share her life story.
Owner / Chef
Ri'chard's Cafe' @ Whites Creek, TN
Colleen, I had the distinct pleasure to see you perform at the Bluebird on 7/14. Bought your CD and am hooked on your music and your writing. I do a little blog on Yahoo (http://360.yahoo.com/unclegomer). I'm working on a blog entry (under the My Reviews) on your album. I'd like to put a few snippets (15-30 secs) from some of your songs on the blog. Thanks for your consideration. I look forward to seeing you perform again next time I'm in Nashville, or if you ever get over towards North Carolina or SW Virginia.
Pilot Mountain, NC