Usually when I hear a catchy song, it’ll stay in my head for a couple of days after which I’ll have a completely different song/artist/genre pop into my brain. Since listening to singer/songwriter Brooke White’s new album “High Hopes and Heartbreak” last week, it’s been all Brooke all the time. “High Hopes and Heartbreak” is the most hummable album I’ve heard in years though that doesn’t detract from its emotional depth. It’s a true talent that can keep you singing to yourself, not just the upbeat songs, but also the slower ones. White’s songwriting skills pull that off beautifully.
With the sunny personality Brooke displayed on Idol, you would expect to get a number of feel-good songs on this album, and she doesn’t disappoint. The gleefully infectious “Radio Radio” starts things off with a tribute to the medium that introduced Brooke to the music that now plays such an influential role in her life and career. Even for non-musicians like me, it provides a happy memory to searching the car radio as a kid looking for Springsteen singing “Glory Days” or Billy Joel’s “Uptown Girl.” Another outstanding track is “Phoenix” which is both current and nostalgic at the same time. Reminiscent of a great Eagles’s song with a more contemporary vibe, this summer anthem makes me want to drive down the highway in a convertible with the top down on a beautiful day.
Heartfelt ballads are another Brooke White specialty. For instance, “Out of the Ashes” tells the story of a couple who’ve broken up after hurting each other but realize they want to work things out. Brooke sings the verse solo, but then background vocalist Steve McEwan joins in, singing harmony on the chorus which conveys the beauty of that loving relationship being restored through the blending of the two voices.
Another impressive track is “Sometimes Love” which chronicles a couple’s blossoming relationship with the acknowledgement that “Sometimes love is an empty invitation / Sometimes love is a word that’s used in vain.” But this couple realizes the dead end of looking at love as just a meaningless word, and move toward a deeper connection that can provide healing and support over the course of a lifetime.
I knew from her time on “American Idol” and her independent first album “Songs from the Attic” that Brooke was excellent at adapting well-known songs to her personal style. She did it on Idol with her stripped-down acoustic guitar version of Pat Benatar’s rocker “Love is a Battlefield” and on “Songs from the Attic” with Aerosmith’s “Dream On.” The singer continues that trend on “HH&HB” by Brooke-ifying the Kings of Leon hit “Use Somebody” into an engaging country-rocker about the loneliness and longing for genuine personal relationships when you’re performing in front of thousands of people who don’t really know who you are.
Music, by its very nature, is an emotional and spiritual experience meant to touch the heart and soul. With the country in the throes of economic hard times, Brooke White’s “High Hopes and Heartbreak” offers a perfect antidote to the gloom through songs that will lift your spirits and help you better appreciate the relationships that make life worthwhile.