Thursday, December 20, 2018

Ina Forsman: “Been Meaning To Tell You” (2019) CD Review

Ina Forsman is a talented Finnish singer and songwriter, whose music is funky, bluesy and jazzy, with an incredible amount of soul. Her new album, Been Meaning To Tell You, features all original material, written or co-written by Ina Forsman. And it’s fantastic. There isn’t any filler here. Every song on this album is excellent. Joining her on this release are Red Young on keys, Brannen Temple on drums, Laura Chavez on guitar, Chris Maresh on bass. Mark “Kaz” Kazanoff on tenor saxophone and backing vocals, John Mills on baritone saxophone and flute, Al Gomez on trumpet, Randy Zimmerman on trombone, Jay Stiles on keys, and Alice Spencer on backing vocals.

As the opening track, “Be My Home,” begins, I am immediately taken by Ina Forsman’s voice. There is something seductive about it, sexy and passionate and vulnerable and human. “And I guess I don’t have much to give/But I wanna give it all to you/I know you must be tired, your load is heavier than mine/But if I take half of it, we could leave the bad days behind/We could leave it all behind.” Her voice draws us in, and then, holy moly, toward the end it bursts open, like her voice is flying up to the heavens. It’s a surprising and glorious moment, and it’s over all too soon. But before we can catch our breath and process what we’ve just experienced, the next song is taking us in a totally different direction. Yes, things turn funky with “Get Mine.” This tune is so cool, coming straight out of a club in the 1970s, featuring a delicious groove to get you loose, and some seriously cool work on guitar. But what also strikes me is her voice, the way what she does here is so different from what she does on the first track, how she just completely inhabits these different songs, different worlds. This track has a really nice instrumental section, with a lead on keys. “I’m having a good time/Time/I came to get mine, mine, mine, mine, mine, mine.

There are some 1970s vibes to “All Good” too, but with a very different feel. This is more in the pop realm, with a cheerful, almost cheesy bent, but is totally enjoyable. “All the things that I took for granted/I’m finally grateful for/And I’m believing in myself/Just the way that I should.” That’s followed by “Genius,” a song with an excellent classic groove and a great deal of soul, with those horns and backing vocals. It feels like a party, one you want to attend. There is also more good work on guitar, particularly during that instrumental section in the middle. And then I love when Ina belts out the lyrics toward the end. Oh yes! Then she gives us a song titled “Whatcha Gonna Do.” The first time I played this disc, when this one started, I wasn’t that into it. The opening bit about the six-inch heels, delivered a cappella, didn’t do much for me. But the moment the song kicked in, I totally fell for it. Here we get another good groove, and another marvelous vocal performance.

“Why You Gotta Be This Way” has a kind of sly, slinky opening, and becomes a fun track. There are some things that Ina Forsman does vocally that remind me of Holland Greco’s work with The Peak Show, particularly that first album, the one with “Go Back” and “Junk Drawer.” If you’re familiar with that album (and you should be, because it’s fucking great), I think you’ll hear the similarities. Ina then gets good and bluesy with “Miss Mistreated.” Ah, there is something sultry and yet powerful about her approach here. She is a force, to be sure. “Oh, did you ever put some makeup on your face just to fade/All the scars and bruises, all the lies and abusing/Thrown at your face?” That’s followed by another powerful and moving vocal performance in “Figure.” The focus is really on her vocals here, as she is accompanied mainly by keys for a good portion of it.

The horns then are what make “Who Hurt You” so enjoyable. And I can’t help but appreciate the honesty of lines like these: “Well, I’ll take care of you/I’ll stay by your side forever and ever/But as much as I love you I have to say/Girl, you need to get your shit together.” There is also some nice work on flute in the second half of this one. “I love you/Probably more than you do.” That’s followed by “Every Single Beat,” which is very cool right from the start, with those horns and a Latin rhythm. There are some great funky little touches on keys. This is a song that celebrates music itself, at one point calling out individual instruments and giving different musicians opportunities to shine. The beat is at the fore from the beginning of “Chains,” the beat feeling like it’s inviting us to join in, to join the musicians. It also gives the song a raw power and vibe. And I dig that horn over it. “If you wanna control me/Hold all the ropes/Make sure you hold on tight.” The disc then concludes with “Sunny,” which is delivered a cappella, giving us a chance to really appreciate Ina’s voice. Not that we haven’t had plenty of opportunities to do so throughout the entire album, of course, but here there is nothing else to focus on. “I just hope when you’re lost and lonely/You’ll always have your dreams.”

CD Track List
  1. Be My Home
  2. Get Mine
  3. All Good
  4. Genius
  5. Whatcha Gonna Do
  6. Why You Gotta Be That Way
  7. Miss Mistreated
  8. Figure
  9. Who Hurt You
  10. Every Single Beat
  11. Chains
  12. Sunny
Been Meaning To Tell You is scheduled to be released on January 25, 2019 on Ruf Records.

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