The name may sound new, but Lara Landon is no stranger to the Nashville music scene. At the age of nineteen, the independent singer-songwriter left her home in southern California to study music business at Belmont University, and from there worked to make industry connections while honing her skills at local shows. It was one of those concerts where her emotional piano pop caught the attention of Plumb's Tiffany Lee and her husband, artist manager Jeremy Lee, and, as the saying goes, the rest is history. The hard work has paid off; her Bema Records debut Beloved is here to share her songs with the world.
The real star of this album is Landon's voice, part soft-spoken songstress, part soulful, soaring passion. She draws from a wide range of influences, sometimes channeling the darker-edged piano pop of Sarah McLachlan, other times bringing to mind the stirring vocals of artists like Leona Lewis. Her versatile range is pleasant to listen to and easily adapts to the style and mood of the individual songs.
The vocals are right on, but I have to admit that this album didn't grab me right away. The opener "For the First Time" is a catchy tune with a touch of R&B flavor that leads into "Closer," a dramatic song that showcases the more powerful side of her voice. "Presence of Love" takes a poppy, more radio-friendly approach, and "Lift Me Up" has a danceable beat that stands out from the rest of the album in a fun way. The first half does a great job setting the momentum, but then the pace slows in the second half, leveling off to steady, piano-based balladry that doesn't break form too often.
But after spending more time with her music, the real beauty began to unfold and win me over. What I'd mistaken for uninteresting turned out to be something intimate and understated. Coming to appreciate Beloved is like getting to know a new, quiet friend in some ways; it takes commitment and quality time to focus on what she's really saying. The second half actually seems to have some of her most poignant lyrics, whether expressing the tension of trust and doubt in "I Believe" or reflecting on the pain of growing up in "Innocence." Pay attention, because it's easy to miss these subtle, heartfelt moments at first.
Lara Landon is a talented, hardworking artist for sure. It may take a few listens to fully appreciate this album, but her music is worth getting to know. A little more variety and energy might have helped wake up the slower second half of this record and let her beautiful words and voice shine even brighter. There is definite potential for this young woman's musical career, and though it's not perfect, Beloved is a good start that makes her future efforts something to look forward to.- Review date: 9/20/09, written by Jen Rose of Jesusfreakhideout.com
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