We get a fair number of submissions from independent artists, so it’s extremely rare to find an artist that can stand above the rest, but Quinell is one of those singer songwriters who really has that “it” factor. His songwriting is genuine and his sound is precise in all the right ways. There’s style in his guitar playing, swing in his vocals, and an overall joy throughout the album that makes listeners want to come back again and again.
From the opening “Hooked on a Feeling” the clear quality in Quinell’s vocals is evident. There’s a real familiar quality in his sound. The song itself is a toe-tapper. “I’m hooked on a feeling… can’t get enough of your love this evening.” With a gentle hat tip to B.J. Thomas and while simultaneously doing a sort of old time pop country flavor, it all comes together it what is… well, genre bending that could generally be called “rock.” The thing is, I can picture playing this track on a date, at a dance, or just around the house. It has that simultaneously “timeless” yet “new” feeling. Great track.
“I Believe” is a bit more of the typical “singer songwriter” fare, but I don’t mean that to say it’s workaday or boring. In fact, there’s something phenomenal about Quinell’s ability to seamlessly shift from such disparate genres. There’s a sort of lonesome sincerity in his vocals on this track that smack of Kenny Rogers on “The Gambler.” It’s both storytelling sobriety and soft vulnerability that make the track penetrate. The lyrics are about having “hope for the human race.” The line “preachin’ peace with pistols and fighting anyway” is powerful. It’s an impactful song, for sure.
“To Where We Are” has an island feel to it with some guitar and keys thrown in to keep us guessing. Then, just when the listener thinks the album is going to have a silly turn, “The Wedding Song” hits with all the force of a powerful love ballad. “I want to hold your hand… I want to let you know… I want to let it show.” Solo acoustic guitar, soaring yet sincere vocals, and keys (strings?) to create ambiance. It’s definitely not an expected turn on the album. (Oh and the female harmonies are perfect. How delightful for a wedding song.)
“On My Mind” comes back to the island flavor. The open strumming and bongos for percussion make the Mai Tais almost like you can taste them. It’s actually one of the best songs on the album in how it’s written. The phrasing really fits and the melody works nicely. It’s just well done. The gang vocals in the second half of the track really make it. It’s like everyone on the beach is holding one of those Mai Tais singing together. The harmonies are a bit like the Beach Boys. It’s a great summer song!
“Down by the Water” has a rock-blues feel to it. “Take Me Back” has a very personal message to it. The intimate story works really well with the other singer songwriter tracks on the album. The overall sound is one of my favorites on the whole album. There’s a genuine Eagles flavor (think “Peaceful Easy Feelin’”). From lead vocals to the well-placed guitar licks, it’s just an enjoyable track that many listeners can have a connection.
The title track “Til We’re Free” sounds, as the SoundCloud tag accurately has it, almost exactly like Mat Kearney. It’s uncanny how similar it is. That said, the performance is genuine and provides a wonderful outro for the album. It connects nicely with the overall ethos of the album – a message of hope and joy that embraces life in a variety of ways.
All told, Quinell’s album impresses me with both his versatility and overall writing ability. It will be interesting to hear where his songwriting goes from here. Some of the simpler acoustic stuff is really powerful doing “more” with “less.” That said, some of the fuller productions do a great job of evoking emotion from the listener. I am looking forward to hearing the ongoing development of this bright emerging artist. Give him a spin if you like versatile singer songwriters and especially if you like Mat Kearney.