Kala Farnham’s second album Samadhi: How Is Where You Are offers bold musical accomplishments and one of New England’s best voices in one of this year’s best written and best recorded works. A folk artist who incorporates many other roots elements, Farnham coats her gems with her astonishingly good vocal applications. The Connecticut singer-songwriter is also still young enough to take her music to a much higher level in the next few years.
“Wildfire” makes a strong favorable impression as the opening track. Tuneful melodies and solid low end are the order of the day. Her sweet gentle vocal soars over tasteful piano and Duke Levine’s pretty mandola picking.
Moving onto even greener pastures, “Quaker Hill” is built upon a tuft of fiddle, banjo, and acoustic guitar. Over that pleasant texture, Farnham asserts a lilting vocal, her pretty timbre as much a part of the folk country swing sensation going on.
“Oliver Jordan” pirouettes into action with a lilting twirl of piano notes that makes one imagine ballerinas making their exquisite motions across a stage. Farnham asserts her pretty, girlish vocal timbre in the most tasteful, considerate offerings of notes.
“Lyrical Letters” gets a sweet accompaniment from Farnham’s Celtic harp as she lets her ever so sweet, unique vocal timbre move along a tender melody line. Angelic, lofty, tender are just a few words that come to mind as this unusually talented local singer makes her way through this tune. Daisy Castro’s violin and cello make a perfect match for the sussurant beauty of her voice.
Title track “Home Is Where You Are” finds Farnham letting her wider, rangier vocal prowess unfurl. Broader, more balladry here, she lets her voice well up from a tender under pinning of piano, violin, and acoustic guitar. This song impresses in the way Farnham sharpens her vocal phrasing and sings higher and higher notes without losing her pristine beauty or emotive content.
“Wishing Cup” gets a motivational beat from drummer Nick D’Errico and an inspirational harmonica line from Brandt Taylor. It all creates a feel of soulful Americana, if such a genre exists, and Farnham’s heartfelt delivery renders it so personal, meaningful, and tastefully self-restrained that it doesn’t matter which label get placed upon this song. It’s also a perfect song to transition to the beat driven material to follow.
Half way through her album, Farnham gets funky, switching to electric piano and more danceable grooves. “One Woman Tribe” find her timbre sharper and her delivery more soulful. Modern R&B hasn’t sounded this good since Alicia Keys released her first album. Duke Levine’s supple electric guitar line and Farnham’s funky keys will keep one’s toes tapping and head bobbing.
“Tinman” fiercely conjures a familiar character , something created by magic and love, and the bulbous guitars, rocking beat, and tense keyboard work tell his story with urgency, action, and a sense of foreboding. This piece could be part of an action scene movie score or one could just let Farnham’s rocking verve inspire their own imaginative creation based on this work.
“Sappho’s Lament” is essentially Farnham’s original music set as accompaniment to a poem by the ancient Greek poet Sappho, a female lyrical poet whose work only remains in fragments and whose life story remains uncertain to academics. Farnham was clearly inspired by this piece of ancient poetry because her minor key beauty creates a feeling of unresolved sorrow.
“The Hill” glides in on the strength of beauteous notes from piano and violin. Here, Farnham takes her time unfurling her lyrical and vocal prettiness. Her sensitive, considerate phrasing shows the strength of her voice as an instrument in and of itself. Likewise, “Again,” with thoughtful mandola accompaniment from Mr. Levine that opens up a lot of space for the voice, Farnham moves mountains of feeling with her vocal application. She moves her sweet, girlish timbre around with the gentlest touch, her emotive quality dabbed in talented, easeful projection.
Farnham sings over a two step shuffle on “Wild Soul,” a jaunty mid-tempo number with a touch of old world melody lacing through. She adopts a bit of a gypsy vocal in her brief build ups in each verse. Here, the vocal impresses with its assertions, twists, and dynamics. Her voice is also rich in character here too, immersing herself in the rambunctious lyrical meaning and fibrous rhythms.
“Unleashed (Emma’s Lullaby)” is a quaint vocal number with sparse acoustic accompaniment. Here, Farnham carries most of the emotive weight in her vocal application. Her sustains are heavenly and brilliantly contrasted with Levine’s mandola picking.
Moody and forlorn, closing track “Simple Gifts” is a simple folk song with a subtle narrative arc. Farnham carries us along through out her message, even if we don’t feel we’re being guided. Its simplicity is its strength as Farnham’s voice takes its twists and turns over somber strings and Celtic harp and tense violin bowing. Her voice rises strongly above all that is going on around her and it’s a second beauteous item in this piece.
Farnham has much to be proud of after coming up with his strikingly bold and impressive sophomore album. Samadhi: Home Is Where The Heart Is manages to be one of the New England scene’s best full length CDs of 2016. Farnham is still in college, making it interesting to see how far she will take her talents in the coming years.