Los Angeles-based artist Pearl Charles heals the deepest wounds and inspires us to move on with her ’60s and ’70s soft rock and psych-tinged country-pop album, ‘Magic Mirror’.
Not even 30 years old, Pearl Charles has already lived several lifetimes. Like some of her idols (Dolly Parton, June Carter), her music career started at a young age. She started performing at five and at 18 she co-founded country duo, The Driftwood Singers, who found success within the L.A. indie scene. As like emerging artists do, she did a stint as drummer (for punk-rock band The Blank Tapes) and later backed Father John Misty, The Growlers, and the great Kim Deal. The Los Angeles native was doing everything, and she was everywhere.
Then at age 21 she launched her solo career. The aptly titled 2015 EP Pearl Charles was an introduction to a talent who is one-part Patsy Cline and another part Joni Mitchell. While her style resembled those legends, Charles is a 21st century rarity – a modern artist creating timeless music. Her 2018 debut LP, Sleepless Dreamer, further demonstrated that the old can still sound new and refreshing. Now she takes the sounds of the ’60s and ’70s to another level on her stellar sophomore album, Magic Mirror.
Where a wide-eyed innocence seeped throughout her first two efforts, Charles exudes confidence on Magic Mirror. Like a woman who has seen and experienced it all, she shares her experiences for all to learn. They include the importance to live for the moment as revealed on the dazzling, disco jaunt of opener “Only for Tonight”. Through the ABBA-inspired, technicolor soundscape, Charles smoothly calls on us to “don’t think so” and just dance the night away.
But after this momentary moment of escapism, reality strikes and often hard. On the stirring, cosmic psych-tinged “What I Need” (which sounds like June Carter collaborating with The Byrds), Charles accepts that she must say goodbye to someone. As a hypnotizing steel guitar hums on the desert-noir, psych-country tune, “Slipping Away”, Charles further confronts the truth that things are not what they used to be. This includes looking introspectively, as she does on the solemn ballad, “Don’t Feel Like Myself”, and the Crystal Gayle-esque, “Magic Mirror”. On the latter, Charles intelligently explains how the woman she sees in the mirror is not her true self. This lesson is reiterated on the stunning, “Imposter”.
With the grace of Carole King and the hip modernity of Jenny Lewis, Charles delivers a sublime and stunning piece of ’70s soft rock etched with traces of cosmic country. While the music is blissful and dreamy, Charles’ words are poignant and honest.
“Now you’re off in the ether
I still project your entanglement
Funny how you can still be
And be somewhere else instead
And I am the imposter
I already lost her
I keep looking for myself”
The record wraps with three songs that find optimism within uncertainty. A delightful, summertime quality emanates from “Sweet Sunshine Wine”, an to ode to undying love. The delicate and soul-calming “As Long As You’re Mine” is a reminder that the strongest love will help us overcome anything and everything.
The dream-folk Laurel Canyon number, “Take Your Time”, exudes the uplifting warmth of Mary Chapin Carpenter. Charles’ words, too, are akin to the legend’s songwriting as she eases all concern when she tells us to: “Take your time time / You’re all right / It’s going to be just fine”. While some would shrug at such words, coming from Charles makes us take notice that things will indeed be alright. They make us take notice that Pearl Charles can help us believe the darkest days are behind us.
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