Those who know me know that I am not a “less is more” guy. I look for some intricacy, some eloborate design in all things to enjoy them. I really dislike songs with 3 unoriginal chords and a lazy singer claiming to be the “less is more”. There is a difference between laziness and minimalism.
Then every once in a while, I run into a work of art that is seemingly minimalistic yet emotionally deep and structurally intricate, only in a very subtle way. Speak Your Heart by Val D’Alessio is one such song.
I first saw Val live and she blew my mind. So I immediately found out she has music out there on the web for all to listen.
Genre-wise I guess it is fair to call it contemporary country, but who cares about genres, right?
The tune kicks in with a minimalistic mix that let’s the listener focus on the beautiful and articulate acoustic guitars in the intro. And since I am a big fan of the relationship between the chords vi and IV (like Am and F) the chord progression is an instant winner for me.
But what also immediately grabs the listener is Val’s “earthy” vocals. She has such a unique voice. Highly expressive with a little bit of grit and breathiness. A perfect combination for the deep emotional music she makes.
The subtle, slightly-gritty lead guitar is there just the right amount. If it was any more prominent, it would start to deteriorate the overall song, if it was any less, it would be lost in the song.
The chorus is supported by very subtle and lush harmonies from female back vocals and with the changing beat on the drums, this makes the chorus stand out just at the right amount.
The bridge that kicks in 2.04 has some interesting musical choices. It is possibly one of the most lyric intense parts of the song. Harmonically it sticks to a simple two chord progression and the mix becomes quite again. All of this works pretty nicely and the returning chorus ignites the hand clapping, head swaying, or whatever the rhythmic movement of choice for the listener.
This song is about making very subtle choices. This is hard to describe but let me attempt. It is almost as if Val stood in front of a machine with 20 rotary knobs that she could set from 0 to 10. She set them all at different values between 1 and 3. but if any of them were off by one tenth the song would deteriorate. And she made it so that none were off the slightest.
This kind of “balance of subtle elements” is very hard to achieve. Not just in the songwriting but also in performance, recording and mixing. And all those elements are perfect in their subtlety in this song.
The song wastes no time with unnecessary repeats anywhere. it just flows from part to part with a steady and comfortable pace that takes the listener along a relaxed journey.
I have to mention also how much I enjoyed the bass performance on this song. Again very subtle but tasteful and solid.
Another subtle but tasteful surprise for me was the shakers that come in at 2.56 marking the beginning of the outro.
Speak your heart is a solidly beautiful tune where every single beat and note is there with purpose and direction. It is always rewarding for me to see a song that has gone through as many iterations as necessary for it to be refined and polished to its strongest core elements.