Lydia Salnikova – Hallway (2010)

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The Ballad Of Bering Strait is a documentary that chronicled the story of young Russian music students who fell under the spell of bluegrass, formed a band playing it, and struck out to America — Nashville, that is — to find their fame and fortune there. In spite of the frustration dealing with the ever fickle and unstable nature of the record business, their first, self-titled album netted them a Grammy nomination in 2003. That recognition didn’t translate into the success that their talent merited and after one more album in 2005, the band called its quits in 2006. But as is often said, as a door is closed, another one opens and that’s where we pick up the story.

For Bering Strait keyboardist-vocalist Lydia Salnikova, the journey that continued without Bering Strait eventually led her to take the plunge and record her own record with her own songs. Not waiting on a big record deal and not wanting outside musicians to muddle her musical message, Salnikova recorded, produced and mixed the album herself, in her home studio. The product of her DIY determination is called Hallway.

Hallway isn’t a bluegrass record, a country record or anything quite the kind of music one normally associates with Nashville. It’s more akin to the California soft rock reminiscent of the 70s heyday, and some of its better female practitioners like Karla Bonoff, Carole King, Linda Ronstadt and Nicolette Larson. The singer-songwriter in Lydia Salnikova is inward looking, soulful and pensive. Melancholy, you might even say.

Melancholy, yes, but the emotional depth of the tunes save them from being downers. Salnikova’s vocals, hefty but sweet, conveys her tales of heartache and confessionals with honesty. There’s a consistent flow in the soft-to-middle paced vibe and even the insertion of a old Russian folk song “Ah Ty Step Shirokaya” sung in her native tongue doesn’t really disturb it. No fillers on this disc, but the standouts are “Just One,” “Trapped,” “Written In My Heart,” “What If It’s Love,” and a groovy R&B cooker called “Once I Thought I Knew.”

And that home studio sound? It’s fine, and perhaps we can thank technology for that. The magic of MIDI enables her to supply the drums, bass, Mellotron and string parts while maintaining a good deal of the organic feel. Moreover, she kept things tidy and uncluttered, only indulging a little with the vocals, which were often done with good results (the clever switching of vocal timbres from dry to warm between verse and refrain on “What If It’s Love,” for example).

In the end, it isn’t the way she made the album that makes Hallway an adult contemporary music pearl in a time where there are such few standout albums in that style of music. No, it’s the songs, and the convincing way she delivers them.

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Hallway went on sale late last year, on Collyde Records. Visit Lydia Salnikova’s website.

S. Victor Aaron

S. Victor Aaron

S. Victor Aaron is an SQL demon for a Fortune 100 company by day, music opinion-maker at night. His musings are strewn out across the interwebs on jazz.com, AllAboutJazz.com, a football discussion board and some inchoate customer reviews of records from the late 1990s on Amazon under a pseudonym that will never be revealed. E-mail him at svaaron@somethingelsereviews .com or follow him on Twitter at https://twitter.com/SVictorAaron
S. Victor Aaron

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