“Collage” is Valerie Markell Gallagher’s second CD, and first studio release. “Collage” has been from the beginning, a collaborative effort involving the fine, masterful, musical and production talents of Mr. Jim Bybee, and the executive production, and ever-passionate support of Paul Gallagher.
This album consists of 6 original tracks, 3 covers, and 2 traditional tunes. By intention, each song is varied stylistically, while remaining rooted in the voice. Acoustic and electric guitars create a beautiful backdrop, with keyboard, bass, drums, flute, and violin added in as well.
The style is eclectic moving easily from folk-rock tunes to Celtic traditional pieces.
Review by Alec Cunningham
Sometimes, the title of an album simply tells you everything you need to know about what is to be expected inside. This is true for Valerie Markell Gallagher's sophomore release, Collage, because it is in fact a musical collage comprised of songs that traverse a number of genres. Included within the album is every genre from classic rock and pop to folk and Celtic.
In that her first release was recorded live, this marks Gallagher's very first studio endeavor. The album contains five original tracks, three covers, two traditional songs, and one track written by the album's producer. Although not all of these tracks have been written by Gallagher herself, she finds a way to make every single one of them her own, whether she does so by making variations to the tempo or by altering the original style of the song into something that better reflects her own sound. On top of that, she carries the type of voice that is difficult not to enjoy; it is powerful yet celestial, commanding yet buoyant.
"Never Knew You" makes use of smooth, retro rock sounds, calling to mind the 70s and artists like Fleetwood Mac or Carly Simon. This song provides a strong opening to the album, though if you assume that each subsequent song will have a similar style and sound you will be in for a shock. Gallagher tends to write sad love songs with leisurely melodies. "How Many Times," for instance, is a laid-back song about an on again, off again relationship. There are some exceptions to the statement though. "Love Will Come Again" is also about a relationship, but this one is more upbeat and hopeful. It seems the more multiple instruments are utilized within a song the more lively it turns out to be. "Crying Time" is one of the more memorable tracks. The somber melody of guitars in the verses transforms into an expansive, animated melody in the chorus in an instant. The change is an unexpected one, but it is made to work and does not end up sounding unnatural or forced.
The album's halfway point is marked by a cover of "Hallelujah," Leonard Cohen's famous tune. In that this is a song that is so widely covered, it can be a risky decision for an artist to release their own version. Luckily, absolutely no complaints can be made about this one. Gallagher provides an impressively poignant rendition of the track, and in doing so she compliments her own strengths; her ability to reach such a diverse range of pitches is what allows her to deliver such a compelling performance.
"Paths of Desire" is unique in that on top of the usual instrumentation included on the album - acoustic and electric guitar, bass, and keyboard - this track also contains a violin and a viola, which are contributed by John Weeks. The second of the two traditional tracks, "Danny Boy," appears as the final song. It has been made into a simple yet elegant track that rounds out the album, giving it a touch of Celtic flair. A single electric guitar accompanies Gallagher's vocals, and the tempo of the track as a whole is slowed down a notch from the original.
Collage provides a fairly even mix of both songs that contain a full range of instrumentation and songs that are merely acoustic tracks. Although the chosen style fluctuates from song to song, they all have two things in common: intricate guitar arrangements and the impressive vocals of Gallagher. These two aspects create an overriding folk sound that skillfully interweaves each track with the album as a whole.