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Haleigh Martin - 'Manpower' Album Review


1. Like A Lady

2. Bad Feelin’

3. Girl Like You

4. Manpower

5. Magnolia Lane

6. Wasteland

7. Bones

8. Bloodline

9. Smoke and Mirrors

10. White Flag

Haleigh Martin hails from Kentucky and originally came to my attention last year via a Facebook recommendation. I have reviewed several of her first singles, but she has now unleashed her debut full length album in a DIY fashion. Martin has a brilliant soulful, sassy, Country voice that gets many opportunities here to bring in fans. It’s not a perfect album, but it is easy to see Martin building on this as she continues to grow as an artist.

Early single ‘Like A Lady’ is a great opener with Martin turning on the sassiness with a hint of Blues and seduction in her vocals. It would be a fit on both Country and Pop radio. The guitar has some bite to it which would make it a little edgy on the Pop stations, but I could see this appealing to fans of everyone from Kelly Clarkson to Christina Aguilera. Next up is last single ‘Bad Feelin’ which has grown on me since I first heard it. This is one where the limited recording budget hampers what could have possibly been a stand out moment. Martin sings over a poppy Blues beat. There is not as much musical accompaniment to the song which makes it sound more synthetic than organic. The highlights are really when Martin picks up the pace in moments with her vocal where she can quickly turn a phrase. There are some very nice backing vocals by her in the mix, but this one doesn’t hit the heights of some of the other songs. ‘Girl Like You’ helps right the ship with some great vocals to introduce the song. Martin sings with some attitude as her throaty lower register nails it. The acoustic guitar underneath is still rather minimal, but it is not overpowered by the beat. Martin gets some spots here to showcase the strength in her voice as well, especially as the song builds towards the finish.

The title track begins with some acoustic guitar and a nice looping guitar hook. Martin is gifted with a great ability to inject a lot of rhythm into her vocals, and she does a great job of picking spots to highlight this ability. This isn’t a complicated song with the emphasis again on the beat and the vocals. The guitar provides just enough to give the song the character that I don’t feel in ‘Bad Feelin.’ I am constantly impressed with the restraint Martin utilizes with her voice. She can obviously do just about anything with her voice, but she sings to fit the songs. When there are moments within the song to hit the powerful high notes or extend a line, she does it perfectly without it ever feeling forced. Next up is another of the first songs Martin released ‘Magnolia Lane.’ I love Martin’s vocals here as they shine with the acoustic guitar as her only back up here. Even the opening hum by her is beautiful as this one reminds me of the likes of Norah Jones. This is a divine voice spinning a great narrative in the lyric. When she hits the high notes, the hairs on the arm stand at attention.

Kicking off the second half of the album with ‘Wasteland,’ the rhythm and Blues feel is similar to some of the earlier songs with the acoustic guitar mixed a little lower than the beat. I really enjoy the hand claps here though as they help set the song apart. Lyrically, someone wronged Martin at some point, and she has clearly channeled that emotion into some primal lyrics that should resonate with most all of us. I especially like the ‘I’m arm candy but baby I ain’t sweet’ line. This one gets more powerful as it goes with the chorus containing a refrain that strikes me as someone in pain but also extremely resilient and refusing to acknowledge that the heart has been ripped apart and left for dead. One of my favorites follows with the bluesy ‘Bones’ being a perfect mix for Martin here. The acoustic guitar gets some front and center time in the mix with the beat feeling a bit more organic. Martin sings with rhythm, passion, and spirit. This one is also one of the most immediate on the album as the hook is HUGE. ‘Bloodline’ is darker with some great soul baring lyrics and vocals. Martin will likely be singing this song for a long time in her career. It’s powerful and a showcase for so many facets of what Martin does so well.

‘Smoke And Mirrors’ changes the pace completely with the gentle acoustic guitar and heavenly choral backing vocal effect in the beginning giving way to a gentle easy feeling vocal. The softness that Martin conveys here works perfectly following the mean streak of ‘Bloodline.’ The high notes again are a work of perfection, and the song is simply as beautiful as the voice. Closing out the album ‘White Flag’ showcases Martin again over just an acoustic guitar. For those lucky enough to be catching her live at this stage of her career, this represents a great slice of her work. The song is musically more assertive than ‘Smoke And Mirrors’ with the acoustic guitar getting a heavier workout on this one. It serves as a great closing statement to the record.

As a new artist, Martin has really done a great job at putting together a collection of 10 songs that find an artist establishing an identity. The album isn’t perfect, but it is really good and keeps me coming back for more and more. The back half of the album stands stronger than the front half for my tastes, in part due to the missed opportunity of ‘Bad Feelin,’ but it is more because of the incredible songs that follow it. The next steps in her career will be interesting as I can see record labels wanting to take her sound into different directions, whether it is modern Country or Pop. I think that would be a disservice to her talent and approach though. She has an opportunity to effortlessly bridge genres and appeal to many demographics while establishing a clear cut identity that people will know who it is upon hearing each new song.

‘Manpower’ is available from the normal digital outlets now.

Gerald Stansbury

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