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Erin O'Donnell - Scratching The Surface

Review by Paul M. Carhart
Originally published in The Lighthouse Electronic Magazine (TLeM)

If the extent of your knowledge of vocalist, Erin O'Donnell is measured by what you've heard on her debut project, A Scrapbook Of Sorts, you've only been Scratching The Surface which, perhaps not-so-coincidentally, is the title of her recent sophomore release.

From the strings-laced, Verve-esque opening track, "All Of This," it is quite evident that both Erin O'Donnell and her silent partner, songwriter and husband, Brad O'Donnell have pulled out all of the stops to follow up on their successful 1996 Scrapbook project.

The new release, Scratching The Surface, highlights very much the same vocalist, however the entire project is more integrated than her previous release. The recording seems to be more lush and dynamic as well which is perhaps a result of selecting an atypical Christian music producer (jazz producer, Alain Mallet) and taking the recording outside of Nashville.

Erin's husband, Brad O'Donnell continues to be the primary songwriter and Erin O'Donnell definitely benefits from having her songs "custom" written for her. The songs on this project, while ranging in musical diversity, seems to possess a common theme that runs throughout the project. Evident in such songs as "Crazy" (which was co-written by both O'Donnells), "Twisted" and "Come Find Me," the themes of past regrets and drifting away from God permeate throughout with the usual happy endings thrown in for good measure.

Other tracks cover other issues but do not stray far from the theme. "At Least For Now" is a picture of married life and, ultimately, the kind of compromise required to keep a marriage working. The project's final track, "When I Grow Old" is a tender question that every spouse probably asks at some point and makes for a very gentle finale to the album.

O'Donnell's smooth, confident vocals pleasingly waft through every track with a warmth and sincerity that must be borne from her husband's intimate knowledge of the messages that his wife wants or needs to impart.

Apart from the ample lyrical content on Scratching The Surface, O'Donnell's sophomore release is replete with interesting textures and effects that set the songs apart from each other. The title track utilizes quietly mixed, whispering effects on O'Donnell's vocals in the verses, "Crazy" throws in a little wah-wah at the end to give it an otherworldly feel, "Wide Open" starts out with a reverse-gated drum track , "Twisted" relies on Strawberry Fields-esque keyboards swimming throughout the chorus and "Every Word You Say" starts out with acoustic guitar and a country-ish steel guitar, reminding one of something by Susan Ashton rather than O'Donnell's usual pop fare.

Fans of Amy Grant and another husband-wife team, Out Of The Grey, will be pleased with this album. And if you play it as often as I do, you just might end up Scratching The Surface of the poor little CD itself.


Related Information

For a year or so I was a CD reviewer for The Lighthouse Electronic Magazine (TLeM) where this review was originally published.

- Paul M. Carhart


  © 1998 Paul M. Carhart, all rights reserved, all media.