Review: Charley Hinchcliffe

Charley Hinchcliffe

27 May, 2010 Zack Daggy

Charley Hinchliffe’s self-titled album is full of soulful vocals and many interweaved styles. At times it taps into a southern gospel vibe, and at others it takes on a deeply rooted blues sound. One track in particular even tackles reggae. Hinchliffe presents himself as a Jack-of-all-trades artist with this album, but in the process does he spread himself too thin?

The Tracks…

So Come On – This track introduces listeners to Charley Hinchliffe’s organ driven melodies. Most of the time the organ enriches his songs with a southern gospel vibe. With this track though the organ is instead combined with a harmonica and chunky guitar rifts to produce a honky tonk sound that seems to be heavily influenced by George Thorogood. Traditionally the vocals for a track like this tend to be deep and gruff, but Hinchliffe’s voice is more a mid-range with a bit of a rasp to it. It’s not a perfect match to the melody, and the female fronted backup vocals seem to only highlight this, but it does seem to work in a rough-around-the-edges kind of way.

Let It Go – Don’t let “So Come On” fool you. Charley Hinchliffe and his backup vocalist can harmonize beautifully. “Let It Go” is proof of that. The vocals are light and catchy with hooks throughout. At times they take on a cheerful tone reminiscent to The Corrs, but with a country/pop flair. The music is guitar and organ driven with some amazing breakout moments from both instruments. The guitar instrumentals in particular really stand out. The almost have an arena rock sound about them.

Weeks Turn To Days – This track delves into the more mellow side of Charley Hinchliffe. It begins with an incredibly smooth jazz instrumental to rival Kenny G. This is then complimented by the sublime vocals of Hinchliffe and his backup singer. The rasp of his voice and the sweetness of hers complete each other. The result is a beautifully simple song that plucks at the heartstrings.

Complicated – Where “Weeks Turn To Days” worked for its soft and simplistic style, it falls sort here. The vocals and instrumentals are solid, but they never seem to build toward anything. It’s the same tone throughout. This results in hooks that instead being catchy feel a bit repetitive. Hinchliffe usually seems in his element with lighter songs like this, but not here. It just doesn’t quite work.

Fly – This track has a near dream-like quality to it. This is perhaps due to the John Mayer “Heart of Life” vibe presented from the guitar driven instrumentals. The vocals on this track don’t quite jell like they do on some the others, but they’re still good. In fact, at times during this song Hinchliffe’s voice sounds a little like John Lennon.

Golden High – The one thing consist with every track off of this album is that the instrumentals are always impressive. “Golden High” is no exception. With deeply rich mandolin instrumentals, the best way to describe this track is that it’s folk/blues with an Asian flair. The more bluesy tracks like this seem to be where Hinchliffe’s voice truly shines. His voice is smooth yet has soulful grit that fits perfectly with this style.

Lost In Space – Continuing the mix of genres, Hinchliffe takes on reggae with this track. Though Hinchliffe began his music career in a reggae band, the style just doesn’t fit him. The music is spot on but his voice simply doesn’t fit. In parts it even sounds sour. Hinchliffe is capable of incredible things, just not in this genre.

Slowly – Again, the music for this track is impressive, especially when it comes to the blues guitar. The vocals are equally impressive too with their silk-like smoothness. The only problem is that quite frankly it’s boring. It falls into a lot of the same problems as “Complicated.” There’s nothing wrong with the vocals or music–it’s song structure. Sure there’s an amazing guitar solo featured in this song, but for the most part it just doesn’t go anywhere.

Our Love – This track merges two of Hinchliffe’s strongest music styles–smooth jazz and southern gospel. The result is possibly one of the best instrumentals off of this album. Like “Fly” and “So Come On” the vocals are rough, but they work.

I Feel So Happy – This is absolutely the best track off of Charley Hinchliffe’s self-titled album! It features the album’s best vocals, instrumentals and melody. The backup vocals in particular make this track. Again they hearken back to a harmony very similar to The Corrs. The song itself is moody with strong guitar rifts, soulful organ music and hooks that keep building all the way through the song. A radio-edit needs to be made for this track. It’s ready to storm the airwaves.

The Verdict…

Charley Hinchliffe’s self-titled album is full of promise, but there are some definite misses within. The constant shifting of styles comes off less like someone that’s a Jack-of-all-trades and more like someone that can’t decide on a genre of music. The genres that seem to fit Hinchliffe best are smooth jazz, southern gospel and light blues-rock. There’s no doubt that he’s versatile, but the other genres just don’t fit his style. If he can stick with a constant style that fits him and work on song structure, he has the makings of a great artist. Until then he’s still quite good.

Review by Zack Daggy