The Simplest Things
Butterpie Records, 2002
REVIEW BY: George Agnos
ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED: 05/06/2002
Some of today's most popular singers started their career backing up other singers, Luther Vandross and Sheryl Crow to name two. Count Windy Wagner among the hopefuls to continue this trend as this former backup vocalist for artists ranging from k.d. lang and Jennifer Lopez has just come out with her first full length CD called The Simplest Things.
So, will Wagner be the next big breakout artist? Well the opening cut, "You Think I Do", makes a pretty good case for her as this is a catchy midtempo tune that would be a welcome sound on an adult contemporary station. Everything seems to click here, with the spunky lyric, solid arrangement, and great singing.
And great singing is a big key to the best moments on The Simplest Things. It is easy to see why people would hire her as a vocalist as you feel her pain on songs like "Falling Behind" and "He Said To Me", and she is equally convincing on songs ranging from the gospel-tinged "Sunday Morning Fine" to the playful "Down The River". Her voice sounds like Jewel but with the range and soulfulness of Melissa Etheridge.
However, The Simplest Things shares the same problem of many debut recordings, and that is that Wagner, at this point in her career, has not yet found a distinctive voice of her own. She is still the sum of all her influences, covering all the bases on this CD from nouveau country ("My Pride") to toned down R&B ("Would It Be So Bad") and therefore sounding more like an adult comtemporary mix tape than an artist with a vision.
And while there are no bad songs on The Simplest Things, there is the lack of a truly memorable ballad. I don't mean that Wagner has to have a pull-out-all-the-stops-type ballad. Her songwriting style is a throwback to an earlier, more laid-back time, before the adult contemporary scene had even heard of Diane Warren. But while I find this refreshing, I don't think her songwriting is quite at the level of a Carly Simon or Carole King just yet.
However, Wagner's potential is there and it is the last song, "Painful", which hints at the heights she is capable of reaching as a songwriter. This song has her best lyrics, and the melody strikes a different, unpredictable chord here. Unlike much of the rest of the CD, Wagner seems unburdened with trying to write a potential hit and gets to cut loose a little more both as a performer and songwriter.
The Simplest Things does have a lot going for it. While I think future releases will show growth and maturity of this talented artist, there is no denying that this is a pleasant listen. If you are a heavy listener of adult contemporary radio, this may just put a smile on your face.
For more information or to order this CD, please visit the artist's Web site.