Callie Hopper goes big with her second album. It’s clear that one major theme, at least, driving Out of the Shadows is Hopper’s desire to hit a long home run that firmly establishes her among the rising talents in Americana music today. Some might fear this leading to an overblown or heavy-handed release, but neither is the case. Hopper, for the most part, succeeds in making a memorable statement about her place in the modern Americana genre pecking order. Her vocal range and songwriting talents set her far apart from the typical acoustic guitar wielding female singer/songwriter rising through the ranks today. Her voice sounds like an instrument she can wield at will – virtually no rung in her register goes unchecked and her skill at infusing those pyrotechnics with a sense of real emotional stakes elevates her head and shoulders above many peers. While her influences aren’t readily identifiable, Hopper and her songs sound refreshingly familiar. They speak from individual experience, however, and are never less than completely genuine.
There’s a surprising amount of risk on the album. It begins with the title song and first track. Despite the acoustic underpinning driving the song, Hopper stretches the boundaries of Americana music with a steady and muscular drumming attack. It strikes a prominent juxtaposition with the lighter fare emanating from the stringed instruments, but Hooper’s presence centers everything. “Stay” is a much more traditionally oriented acoustic ballad, but the songwriting on Out of the Shadows consistently demonstrates a flair for the dramatic. The writing utilizes dynamics, accumulating additional instruments as the song progresses, but it is handled in a tasteful way that perfectly orchestrates the song. “Fire and Ice” introduces guest star singer Chad Alexander on a relatively breezy ballad that traffics in familiar imagery and ideas, but it’s given a new voice thanks to the attentive interplay between Hopper and Alexander’s voices.
Violin comes in on the elegantly mournful “Beautiful” and Hopper adjusts her vocal accordingly. While you couldn’t call her turn on this song pure blues, she adopts a slightly nasal tone to her voice and tastefully embodies the lyric with a subtle downturn in her mood. Hopper’s interpretative abilities are often immeasurable. Hopper shows a real talent for exploding the possibilities of the album’s ballad material, but she’s given a true gem to work with on “Hold On”. The song begins in a muted, grieving fashion with nothing but acoustic guitar and Hopper’s beautifully phrased dissatisfaction pulling listeners along. By the song’s conclusion, however, Hopper and her collaborators have transformed the song into a veritable cinematic outcry. Her voice remains powerful, bursting out of the mix, while the musical crescendo mounts around her.
The track “Wishful Thinking” gets such a complete, deluxe treatment that it plays like a showcase number. Piano provides the song’s beating musical heart, but it’s the gradual turn it makes towards the epic and orchestral sends things to another level. It’s arguably one of Hopper’s best moments on the album vocally. The curtain closer, “Chasing a Dream”, brings the album to an elegiac but hopeful close. The song plays itself out with such gentle deliberation that listening to it may remind you of watching a leaf fall from a tree while Hopper puts on a final virtuosic display of her singing talents. Out of the Shadows will wow many and Callie Hopper’s future burns brighter with each new release.