One of the more heartening developments of the democratization of the music industry is the influx of honest singer/songwriters who don’t necessarily fit the jet-setting, zero-responsibilities, eternal child image fostered by rockers for decades. Though it’s cool to be able to live vicariously through larger-than-life spotlighted figures, sometimes it’s even more inspiring to know that artists like Kelly Domino are making good music while staying rooted in reality. It gives us non-spandex-wearing citizens who lack their own reality shows something we can identify with. The Fort Wayne based Domino’s debut, Hold On To Your Dreams, sails along on a set of satisfyingly diverse styles and primo production. A couple of 80s-tinged rockers (the opening title track and “Two-faced Lover”) stand out, with Domino somehow striking a balanced combination of Heart’s Ann Wilson and Karen Carpenter. A crack assembly of backing musicians adds muscle to these arrangements while providing the necessary nuances and subtle touches required to pull off some of Hold On To Your Dreams’ mellower tunes. The jazzy, bluesy piano and sax flourishes during “Escape Artist” and “I Hope She Was Good” come to mind. Lyrically, the album moves easily from hopeful tenacity to themes of betrayal and beyond; Domino isn’t afraid to stray into the more emotional gray areas here, making Hold On To Your Dreams more than just a showcase for her impressive vocals. The soaring “Don’t Mess With This Heart Of Mine” sounds like a gospel number with a twist: while the music and delivery might sound right at home in church, the lyrics are far from reverential (hint: just take a cue from the song’s title).
Domino also moves from uptempo funky pop (“It’s a Shame”) and moving, delicate numbers — “I Couldn’t Have Done It Without You,” for instance, recalls the majesty of Simon and Garfunkel’s “Bridge Over Troubled Water.” Bands like Journey could do well with the heartfelt, hold-up-your-cell-phone power balladry of “When I Met You,” which closes this powerful first album by a woman whose dreams are one step closer to being realized.