Christina Martin – Storm: Album Review

Deeply personal musings from Canadian singer-songwriter Christina Martin on her 8th album.

Release Date:  1st September 2023

Label: Self Release

Formats: CD / Vinyl / Digital

Canadian singer-songwriter, Christina Martin is something of a star in her native land.  Raised on Canada’s eastern seaboard, Christina spent several of her formative years in Austin, Texas and it was there that she got her first taste of musical performance, as a vocalist with local rock outfit Young Heart Attack.  By 2002, she was ready to go it alone and, on her debut album, Pretty Things, she took stock of the experiences that helped shape her outlook, way down in Texas.

With a musical portfolio that encompasses rock, pop, Americana and a just-about-detectable sprinkling of folk, she’s made quite a name for herself during the years since that debut album made its appearance.  Her songs have been used in numerous Canadian TV drama series, and her 2012 single, Falling For You was a huge radio hit.  And, in 2016, her single It’ll be Alright, reached the heady heights of Number 6 on the CBC Radio Chart.  Storm is Christina’s eighth album and follows her 2020 offering, Wonderful Lie.

Storm is something of a departure for Christina.  Already recognized as her most ambitious album to date, it’s a majestic affair with a big, big sound.  There are lots of strings and orchestration in evidence, and lots of chunky guitars too, but Storm is far from being a bombastic album.  Christina’s songs are deeply personal, dealing with subjects that many listeners will find instantly relatable, and, alongside those gritty guitars and soaring strings, there’s lots of room for tasteful piano contemplations.

Opening track, Little Princess is, in some ways, a bit of a false start.  It’s a chugging, ethereal rocker with a distinctive 80s feel.  Christina’s vocal recalls the tones of Stevie Nicks, but it’s the strings that dominate and, just maybe, they dominate just a little too much, getting perilously close to the line that divides enhancement from schmalz.  Maybe those interesting-sounding guitars could have been given a little more prominence?

But that’s a minor criticism in the general scheme of things, and Stay With Me, one of several cuts to have already seen the light of day as single releases, is a stronger demonstration of what Storm is all about.  It’s a BIG ballad, heartfelt and impassioned, Christina’s voice is pure and honest and the strings definitely complement, rather than impede, this time around.  The pace and temperature are raised for In Control, another single, and one of several out-and-out rockers to be found amongst the grooves of Storm.  A thumping drumbeat and ominously simmering guitars provide the drive and, when it comes to the “Don’t worry baby, I’ve got your back” chorus, it’s clear that Christina and her band have got a potentially huge live crowd pleaser on their hands.

Ah yes – the band.  Christina’s invited a number of guests along to fatten up the sound on several tracks, but it’s her core band members that merit specific attention here.  Co-producer Dale Murray contributes some delicious guitar licks and quite a few very special solos, Ian Bent’s grand piano provides the perfect counterpoint to the band’s default rock sound and Jason Vautour’s bass is rock-solid whilst drummer Jordi Comstock is the foundation and the engine for the whole shebang.  And Karen Graves on violin and viola fills the any gaps that are left exposed.

But – back to the music…

Christina brings both power and empathy to her delivery of Some Days, a song that merges tender balladry with chunky rock, before Storm, the album’s title track, sweeps almost everything before it.  It’s a thoroughly enthralling song that picks up pace, volume, presence and drama that echo the approach, arrival and passing of the storm; the approach signified by gentle piano and light synth flurries, before surging strings announce the storm’s imminent arrival.  Guitars, bass and drums all join in as the inevitable deluge happens until the peak of the storm is reached with a sizzling guitar solo from Dale.  Then, peace is restored as the storm passes and Christina offers her thanks for its visit.  It’s an excellent song and, without doubt, the centrepiece for the whole album.

Storm should be a difficult track to follow but, with a piece of genius-level planning, Christina and Dale get it just right, with Inside the Mirror, a stomping number and another one with an 80s feel – this time reminiscent of songs like China In Your Hands or Stay.  Calm is restored with Meeting Place, a classic piano ballad, made extra-large with the help of some glorious vocal harmonies and the strings that bubble and surge just beneath the surface.  And, then, things take a turn for the brighter, as Christina recollects happy days back in Austin, the place where ‘all her dreams came real,’ in the album’s poppiest interlude.

Perhaps the album’s most confessional moment comes with Meant to Get Us Through, a tender confessional song that reflects upon a failed relationship.  Piano and strings share the backing and Christina’s voice is intimate, vulnerable and, yet, undeniably determined.

Most of the songs on Storm are Christina’s personal reflections, but the rocky Still in L.A., possibly the only song on the album that is written about another person – it’s a tribute to an old friend – is the exception.  It’s a guitar-heavy affair, propelled by a pounding drumbeat, and Dale rises to the occasion yet again with another stunning guitar solo.

I always love to see the final track of an album collect all the loose ends and dropped stitches and bring them together to turn the album into a coherent package, and closing track, Healed, does just that.  On an album that isn’t short of messages of despair and despondency, Healed manages to leave the listener with an enduring feeling of hope and optimism.  It’s almost anthemic, especially as the “We shall be healed” refrain is reached, and is delivered with absolute sincerity.  Musically, too, everything comes together, as piano, strings, bass drums and guitars all join hands in one glorious closing cacophony.

Watch the official video to Storm – the album’s title track and its centrepiece – here:

Christina Martin online: Website / Facebook / Instagram / YouTube / Bandcamp

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