We first heard 21-year-old Margaret Durante on “Use Somebody,” a cover of Kings of Leon’s 2008 pop/rock mega-hit. Since then, she’s signed on with Emrose Records, an imprint of James Stroud’s Stroudavarious Records, where she’s gearing up for the release of a seven-song EP.
The first single from that EP is “Mississippi’s Cryin,” the Shelly Fairchild/Stephony Smith co-write that first appeared on Emily West’s self-titled 2007 EP.
Following in Emily West’s footsteps is no easy task. While West has yet to snag her big break, the “Rocks In Your Shoes”/”Blue Sky” singer has one of the finest voices—and is one of the greatest talents—to find its way to Nashville in a generation. So, it’s to Durante’s advantage that most of the world has never heard West’s version of this song, if only because West has a way of stamping everything she sings as her own.
In some ways, however, Durante’s take on “Mississippi’s Cryin’” is more effective than West’s, despite the fact that West has a more refined, more powerful and more expansive voice.
This is a relatively quiet song that explodes into a huge, soaring chorus, and Durante’s performance is controlled and focused where West’s was unwieldy. Durante smartly avoids trying to do too much with a chorus that tempts singers to go full-throttle, choosing instead to settle in and let her voice compliment the song. And while she doesn’t endow the lower tones with as much warmth or color as West, she shines when the song kicks into high gear—a smoky texture is still audible even when her voice climbs into its upper register.
From a production standpoint, however, Durante’s performance suffers from a relatively loose mix that does little to hide the fact that at times, her voice sounds a bit thin. It’s not, but parts of the recording fail to capture the full spectrum of her vocal character. Especially in the verses, her vocal sounds muddier than it should.
Although these problems are minor, they create a sense that this recording is a notch below its major label counterparts.
Still, there’s a lot to love here. Durante is a real talent, and her take on “Mississippi’s Cryin’” is quite an achievement.
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