Myra Flynn, Crooked Measures
After years spent honing her craft in various nightclubs around the state — oftentimes three or four nights per week — Vermont’s reigning (only?) neo-soul siren, Myra Flynn, has finally released her debut album, Crooked Measures. And it appears the chanteuse’s yeo(wo)man efforts are well rewarded. The disc is an expertly conceived and deftly executed affair that, while not without occasional flaws, reveals a rising young local talent on the cusp of reaching her full potential.
Following a light doo-wop intro, the record gets underway with the classic R&B-tinged “Feels Like the Sunshine.” Flynn’s smooth, breathy flow lilts breezily over understated but immaculate backing rhythms. The singer is immediately commanding, displaying honey-coated chops and appropriately subtle phrasing. Particularly in her chest voice, Flynn possesses a naturally engaging delivery. Where she gets into trouble, though, here and in instances throughout the album, are in flights of falsetto. It’s not that she lacks the range to pull off such dalliances. Rather, it’s almost as if her own melody lines catch her off guard. The result, especially compared to the vivacity of her usual full-throated soul bombast, is frustratingly thin.
Fortunately, such occurrences are the exception to the rule. And rules, it seems, are something Myra Flynn has little use for.
“Neo-soul,” like so many other newfangled genre offshoots, is nebulous at best. Flynn takes full advantage of the freedom afforded by that (lack of) distinction, touching on a remarkable array of styles. From lighter-worthy torch song “Long Fall Down” and the piano-driven “So It Goes,” to the charmingly rootsy “Small Talk” and electro-ish album closer “Fragile,” the singer is equally comfortable with a diverse range of idioms. Yet despite her myriad stylistic forays, she never abandons her roots, infusing each cut with a smart helping of diva attitude.
Flynn enlisted a number of local luminaries to aid in the recording, including Bob Levinson (drums), songwriter Justin Levinson (acoustic guitar, harmonica, backing vocals) and frequent “Quiet Songs” collaborator Paul Boffa (guitars, bass). Recording whiz Colin McCaffrey engineered the disc, also adding his considerable talents as a multi-instrumentalist and arranger. Rounding out the crew, Vermont’s Righteous Babe Anaïs Mitchell contributed vocals to the sparkling “Miss Independence.”