This isn’t storm the ramparts type of folk songwriting and that’s one thing you’ll soon notice about Olivia Kellman’s single “Voices Need Sound”, but the song does make it clear where her sympathies lie. If it didn’t, somehow, her decision to divert the proceeds from sales of this single to a trust fund established to assist survivors and those otherwise impacted by the Valentine’s Day mass shooting at a Parkland, Florida high school that claimed seventeen lives and mobilized huge protests across the nation. A mere musical broadside about the situation would have precious little hope of enduring, but Kellman’s writing is so attuned to the humanity of this event and the following outcry that the smell of posterity surrounds it. This is a song built to last and that’s little surprise coming from a songwriter who announces her presence with such poetic strength on her debut On My Way.
There’s no doubt that the circumstances driving the writing of this song has driven Kellman to work at such a high level, but everything on her debut indicates this is typical of her standards. The language for “Voices Need Sound” though has a special, biting charge that her singing accentuates with some aching passages when her voice threatens to collapse or becomes charged with genuine emotion. Kellman’s singing further strengthens that effect in multiple ways and plays off quite well against the instruments, particularly the piano and violin that makes some important contributions late in the tune. The tandem of electric and acoustic guitar at the heart of the song’s musical arrangement has a notable contrast in sound – the melodic qualities of the acoustic give the sinewy electric fills suitable underpinning. One cannot help but enjoy, as well, the patient build she imposes on the song’s development and wisely never gets in a hurry to arrive at its conclusion.
This could have been an easy song to write. Something simple, black and white, and declamatory might have taken a quality songwriting ten minutes or less to churn out some angry rant about the song’s subject. Instead, however, Kellman opts for a much more nuanced, intelligent path and, taken with the musical quality, it pays off for listeners in a major way. Her voice is truly a work of performance art and makes these fine lyrics greater than they already are and the victims of the Valentine’s Day shooting are lucky to have such a powerful voice advocating for positive motion in their life by writing and recording this track. It’s an eloquent and impassioned release that doesn’t waste any time, notes, or words conveying its point. Olivia Kellman’s “Voices Need Heard” has impressive poignancy and never takes any short cuts to get there. This is one of the most powerful recorded tributes yet to the survivors of that Valentine’s Day attack and Kellman definitely deserves lauded for trying to provide relief to others in their time of need.