The Pregnant Letter

Alain de Courtenay

Independent release, 2008

http://www.myspace.com/alaindecourtenay

REVIEW BY: Greg Calhoun

ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED: 07/03/2010

Chicago native Alain de Courtenay released his indie debut, The Pregnant Letter, in July of 2008 after building a fan base utilizing social media. Many of Alain’s listeners discovered him after finding his covers on YouTube, or through using the independent music site ourstage.com. Alain’s silky voice makes his brand of acoustic soul smooth, and he has an excellent range reminiscent of Raul Midon. TJ Callanta, a classical violinist, accompanies Alain, adding some depth to the sparse arrangements that rely upon Alain’s crisp vocal melodies to make the songs pop.

The album begins with two average efforts. “If You Love Me” is a staccato-strummed tune about wanting to hold on to a relationship that just fell off a cliff, but it drags and the chorus is forgettable. “Hold, Soft, Still” begins as a lover’s lullabye before speeding up into a hopping folk song, yet neither part is evocative enough to be memorable. The third cut, however, reveals Alain’s potential as a songwriter.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

“Freedom” is the best track on the album, using dynamics well while always building towards the excellent chorus. This beautiful song demands your attention. It gives a glimpse into his vision of a freer world, where “I don’t need anything…where love is the only thing.” Unfortunately, “Freedom” is followed by the pedestrian “Emerald Road” before Alain gives us the most consistent set of tracks on the record.

“Godspeed” opens up with quick-strummed palm-muted guitar and a violin solo melody line. It begins as a swift burner of a breakup song, and Alain’s vocals are charged with raw emotion. This cut builds to an intense instrumental bridge before slowing to a simmering and sympathetic finish where the vitriol of “I’m like a mirror, baby, maybe you’ll remember me / Do you hear me crying, through the sound of the music dying?” is replaced by the understanding of “Godspeed.” After the enjoyable ballad “The Shepherd’s Song” is another highlight, “Be.”

The song begins by introducing the melody on violin before bringing in Alain for this wistful, honest look at love lost. Alain sings with everything he has, and this track demonstrates the power a great song has to draw out the best from a performer. He follows “Be” with “Sing To You,” a folk-pop cut reminiscent of Jack Johnson, but with Alain’s falsetto making the style his own.

The Pregnant Letter’s next song, “Love Anyway,” is a strong track about persevering and staying hopeful in a trying world. “’Cause everyone competes,” he writes, “Nothing much has changed / The cool kids can be cruel / Still, what else can I say / Love, love, love anyway.”  The closer, “Make-Believe,” is a decent love song, but does not quite live up to the tracks preceding it.

Alain de Courtenay’s debut is uneven but shows potential on a number of cuts. His ability to write about love without resorting to cliché and his vocal talent are foundational strengths that could support a budding career. With more experience, hopefully The Pregnant Letter will birth a sequel that lives up to Alain’s musical skill and promise as a songwriter.

Rating: B-

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