Charlie Faye has made a name for herself as a singer-songwriter. Her last album You Were Fine, You Weren't Even Lonely reached number 16 on the American Music Association's airplay chart. She also earned a "Songwriter of the Week" honor from American Songwriter magazine's website. In spite of this, Faye was looking for a change. She had a love of the girl groups of the 1960s and, after receiving an e-mail from Peter Asher (of Peter and Gordon) offering encouragement, she decided to form her own girl group The Fayettes, with BettySoo and Akina Adderly on background vocals. Add in a crack band, which includes Pete Thomas of Elvis Costello and the Attractions fame, and the group has crafted a self-titled debut that is a wonderful nod to the 1960s.
The record runs the gamut of 1960s sounds with influences ranging from Motown to Stax to Phil Spector. Faye wrote or co-wrote all 11 of the album's tracks and while the album is steeped in music from the past, it never sounds derivative, a testament to Faye's writing and clever, often topical lyrics. An exception to this is the intro riff to "Coming Round The Bend," which is pretty much note for note to "Then He Kissed Me," but even then, the rest of the song takes a left turn musically and the intro seems much more of a tribute than a theft.
On the opening song "Green Light," Faye delivers a playful ode to the guy making the first move over a bouncy, Motown-esque beat. Faye's vocals are longing and the melody is infectious in this earworm of a leadoff track. Surf guitar meets Del Shannon keyboards on "Loving Names," a mid-tempo number that finds Faye looking back at past relationships.
"Eastside" finds Faye in full Stax mode with its funk groove and killer sax from David Bowie saxophonist Steve Elson. The song mixes a great dance groove with social commentary about historical neighborhoods giving way to redevelopment, something Faye experienced firsthand as a resident in Austin, TX. Similarly, "Sweet Little Messages" finds the group mixing strong harmonies over a Steve-Cropper-esque guitar part.
The album ends on an upbeat note with "It's All Happening," a song about finding the right love, but one that could also echo things falling into place for Faye's career. Faye gives a heartfelt vocal on this strong closer.
Faye's love of the 1960s is evident throughout the album. With the Fayettes, she has crafted an homage to an era of music long since past while staying culturally relevant lyrically. At once familiar and new, Charlie Faye And The Fayettes is a fun listen.