Daugherty is a welcoming talent not afraid to bare her soul.
Juliana Daugherty’s debut album, Light, has an overwhelming melancholy, but it’s never unwelcoming or full of self-loathing. The Charlottesville, Virginia-based singer-songwriter is a delicate soul who draws on the power of words and a unique ability to tell thought-provoking stories about her experiences as well as the matters that suffocate her mind. With such an emotive voice to fight through the pain and sorrow, Daugherty movingly delivers courageous songs brimming with heart.
It’s no surprise that she has such talent; she’s the daughter of a trumpet player and a violinist and earned an MFA in poetry. She combines folk and indie rock, her songs starting with a simple picking of strings evocative of Iron and Wine, then following an approach that recalls Sinead O’ Connor’s haunting Irish version of “Scarlett Ribbons.”
Standouts include “Revelation,” which blends gently picked chords with a voice of utter loneliness: “How can I comprehend what’s true/ When everything I know escapes my side?” On “Baby Teeth,” her whispered melodies are accompanied by a fundamental chord progression that’s made compelling by a commanding voice.
The production echoes Bon Iver’s For Emma, Forever Ago. The serenity of the Virginia countryside and an air of seclusion helps bring her voice to life and enrich her arrangements. Songs such as “Sweetheart” and “Player” make simple use of cellos and keyboards, the latter kicking off a stabbing of the guitar and ending with an emphatic crescendo. Her voice is such a lure that you can miss what she does with the music.
Daugherty’s way with words evokes such artists as Sarah McLachlan and Lana Del Rey. She manages to do a great deal with the melodies, making syllables resonate with the soul. On the title track, the message of suffering with mental illness isn’t one to dwell on with sorrow, but to face head-on with integrity. Even on “Player,” where she sings “I am lost inside again,” the music carries you through with confidence and depth. These are songs about love and loss, but there is always hope behind them, and Daugherty finds the balance perfectly.
A few tracks mid-album lack impact, such as “Bliss” and “Easier,” but even then, her vocals shine like sunshine through grey clouds. Daugherty has a voice that’s mature for her age and has the potential to match the finest folk artists of yore, providing she can build on the solid foundations of Light.
Daugherty is a welcoming talent not afraid to bare her soul, and after listening to the album you’re left with a warm feeling – a positive belief that things can get better. It’s The singer-songwriter provides a kind of therapy with her honest and tender outpouring of music and emotion. Despite a few misfires, Light is a bold debut, providing solitary moments of joy and pain magnified by a distinctive voice. It may take a few listens to tap into its depth, but it rewards the time spent.