Beki Hemingway’s scheduled appearances at two of Fort Wayne’s more acoustic-oriented venues (June 22 at the Dash-In; June 23 at Mad Anthony Brewing Co.) led me to peg her as a folksy singer-songwriter. However, Too Much Plenty paints a rather different picture of Hemingway as a rock singer and art-pop chanteuse.
With guitars growling low beneath Hemingway’s vocal, “Grip” shoots for the subtle, off-beat angst of Aimee Mann before breaking into a soaring, rather Shawn Colvin-like chorus. Echoes of Paula Cole can be heard in Hemingway’s layered falsetto that graces the jangly “Old Man.” In fact, for the first couple of times through the disc, I finally had to convince myself to stop playing “spot that vocal style” (a bit of Julie Miller in the energetic smolder of “Hanging Up The Phone,” a touch of Sam Phillips in the tasty art-rock of “Castles”) in order to get down to the business of hearing what happens when Hemingway wraps herself around a catchy chorus (“Over With”), and take note of how what’s on her mind makes its way through pen to paper only to emerge as a compelling pop melody (as on “Sinsick”): “I only bat my eyelashes/to get you into bed/I only get you into bed/to get you off my back sometimes/and I only want you off my back/so I can do the things/that you don’t approve of/but I need your approval all the time”
In the end, it’s not so much a matter of who Hemingway sounds like, but what she does with how she sounds — overall, she has a knack for crafting songs that, for the most part, veer away from the conventional. Too Much Plenty falters only when the occasionally too-slick production (a constant beef I also have against one of my all time favorite female singer/songwriters – Shawn Colvin), coupled with some overly dramatic arrangements, pushes some of the material toward that 80s-influenced pop commonly associated with the current crop of (so-called) country divas. The upside to such a critique is that Hemingway has both the vocal punch to even be considered in such company, as well as a sometimes self-deprecating and often-piercing perspective on relationships that avoids slipping into sentimental goo. As always, wherever independent artists with the wherewithal to visit our little burg may be concerned, I highly recommend that you head out to one of Hemingway’s local appearances and see, hear, buy.