A booming voice, a famous musical gene pool, a gypsy childhood; the story of Trixie Whitley is that of music legend. She was born in Ghent, Belgium, the daughter of respected blues/rock musician Chris Whitley. She showed early inclinations in music, even becoming a regular on the Belgian DJ scene at the tender age of 14. She gained attention, after being handpicked to attend the renowned Berklee School of Music, with a video of her singing “I’d Rather go Blind”, a stirring evocation of Etta James and her similarly titled song. 2013 has, now, brought us Trixie’s solo debut with the album Fourth Corner. The album falls short of greatness, landing in the area of clichéd soul-pop, but still boasts a powerful vocal performance by the young singer.
The biggest disappointment of the album is what it could have been. If Fourth Corner took Whitley’s Joplin-like lungs and backed them with a solid Motown or gospel band performance it would have been incredible. Instead, she’s backed by a muted, bland soul formula, which takes away from the power of her voice, and conjures thoughts of Christina Aguilera rather than Aretha Franklin. On “Breathe You In My Dreams” they even go for the whole call and response choir effect, but it seems a forced (and failed) attempt to lend integrity to the track.
Sometimes she comes through with moments that wake the listener from the sleepiness of Fourth Corner. “Pieces” is a low-key, melancholy work that brings out all the emotion that Whitley can muster. “Gradual Return” is an anthem of a song, building up with rolling snare drums. “Hotel No Name” is a driving, deep, violent song. Whitley growls and howls and the electricity of her vocals are finally matched by pounding drums and stormy guitars. All three tracks show the life that this singer deserves, and that is sorely missing from most of the album.
The first reaction I had when I put Fourth Corner on was “What a voice”. Unfortunately that voice is lost in the blandness of the record’s prescription with some tracks sounding straight from American Idol. It does have its moments of power, no doubt, but Trixie Whitley’s voice fails to carry the album. She’s young, still, and this is her first official solo release. We can hope that her future endeavors will venture out of the tameness of Fourth Corner and into wildness to match her vocal chords.