It's no secret that Tulsa doesn't have a very deep pool of country artists at the moment. There are only a few names that come to mind when looking for a strong female voice as well, so when you find one that fits both categories, it's something of a rare and special find. Sure, there's Kristin Nicole, but that's just about the only one out there, and she's been laying low over the past year, choosing her shows strategically and focusing her time on family.
It may come as something of a surprise then, to have Kinsey Sadler pop back into the country spotlight. Although she started to create a bit of a buzz when she initially appeared on the scene back in 2010, her presence has been reeled back a bit as she signed a development deal with Johnnie Morris and went to work on an album recorded in Nashville.
Now that her debut is complete and was recently released via digital outlets (with distribution in Walmart and Target stores nationwide currently being negotiated by the label), Sadler is ready to make herself known -- not just in Tulsa, but beyond, as her management builds a strategy to introduce her to country markets both regionally and nationally.
Admittedly, Sadler's debut disc, The Young and the Reckless, is something of a curiosity on first listen. Opening track "That's How I Roll" and closing track "That's Why They Make Whiskey" venture more into the redneck girl blues-rock territory of Gretchen Wilson than the rest of the disc, which traverses a cross section of country, from contemporary to classic influences.
The title track boasts a contemporary country sound and a great chorus, but struggles with verses that read incredibly stiff before letting Sadler's voice cut loose. Later in the disc, "Go" is a strong ballad, but it doesn't fit the rest of the disc, sounding like a late-'80s country ballad. Likewise, "Midnight Angel at Heaven's Door" simply doesn't fit, trying to squeeze a honky-tonk dance hall tune into an album that's been otherwise built around more pop oriented ballads or badass country girl material.
That's not to discount Sadler's voice or delivery. The truth is she's got one of the strongest female voices I've heard in town for quite some time, especially within the country genre. The problem lies in an album of material that tries to portray Sadler as everything to everyone. My hunch is that's a management and label issue, as she's a young performer capable of doing pretty much anything asked of her. As a young artist, however, the label obviously hasn't decided how it wants to present her, and she hasn't had enough time to grow into her identity and put a foot down.
Sitting down with Sadler, however, proves this young lady to be far more than the CD would lead you to believe. Yes, she's young, but that's a good thing. While confident in her abilities, she doesn't exude the air of arrogance that often comes with early accolades. If anything, what I found was young singer with some incredible pipes who is grateful for an amazing opportunity and trying to traverse the business to find and establish herself and her musical identity.
When you get right down to it, Kinsey Sadler's real passion is the performance. Whether it's in front of 30 people at a casino bar or a few thousand opening for Aaron Lewis at the Muskogee Creek Nation Festival this past June, she's all about connecting with the audience.
Is what Sadler plays truly country? That's up for debate, and my argument would generally be no, but that's neither here nor there when Sadler finds her audience. Yes, country music is a large part of the mix, but so is rock and pop.
"I always cater to whoever is in the audience," Sadler told me last week. "If people come up and ask for Adele or Guns 'n' Roses or whoever else, that's what they want to hear and I'm always down to attempt anything."
If there's one genre that Sadler prefers to sing, however, she says "I like country the most because it's part of my roots and it speaks to me, that's what I relate to the most."
"At the end of the day, though, there are plenty of good singers who do what I do," Sadler was quick to explain. "What makes me different is I'm an entertainer. I'll do what it takes to get people involved. If the audience is into it, that's what makes it enjoyable -- whether it's people two-stepping on the dance floor or the guy tapping his foot in the back of the room. Everyone reacts differently, but my job is to get them to react."
That's exactly what Sadler has proven to be best at, as she started out playing country cover tunes while in college. "I just loved singing," she explained. "I was going to nursing school and it allowed me to sing on a weekly basis and make some cash to pay some bills. The way it worked out, I ended up making a very decent income playing two nights a week."
While transitioning to her own material, Sadler still weights her set heavily with cover tunes for a simple reason. "If people don't know your music and you don't play covers, it's hard to capture them and draw them in," she explained.
Using a few of those strategic covers, Sadler is able to grab the audience's attention and rope them in with one of her standout tracks like "Single," which was written by the songwriting team of Don Goldman and Brad Wolf with Sadler in mind. If entertaining the room for an entire evening, you can expect more covers, with material from Sadler's debut sprinkled in throughout the night. That's understandable, however, and part of the equation for growing an audience.
What proves to be most impressive right now is Sadler's ability to engage an audience and connect with everyone in the room. The Young and the Wreckless is merely an introduction to a young artist that is still finding her true identity and learning who her real audience is.
From what I've seen and heard, I'd lay odds on Sadler following in a path that lets her blend her country roots and passion for a high energy performance into a sound that lies somewhere between Gretchen Wilson and Miranda Lambert. If the label is smart, that's where they'll groom her and make sure she gets a few modern power ballads thrown into the mix to showcase the strength of her voice.
In the meantime, Tulsa gets an opportunity to connect with a promising young local talent before new opportunities pull her away.
Kinsey Sadler's CD release party comes to Red Dirt Dance Hall & Saloon this Friday night, September 13, at 9pm. She'll be backed by a crack band that includes Steve Snyder on bass, Mike Kendall on drums, Jeff Coleman on lead guitar and Stephen Lovell filling in for Steven Lee on rhythm guitar. More importantly, though, you'll get the opportunity to catch Kinsey Sadler in a room that lets her be herself and show where her brand of contemporary country is headed.
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It's another busy week of shows in Tulsa, so I hope you're rested up from the Labor Day holiday and a relatively slow week. We've got a little bit of everything coming our way, from rock to country to dance music and gothic indie, so here are the highlights to get you pointed in the right direction.
Thursday, September 12
One of the most anticipated shows of the month arrives at Cain's Ballroom as Jim James brings his solo show to town with Basia Bulat opening. If you're looking for something a little more intimate and rootsy, check out William Clark Green at Mercury Lounge.
Friday, September 13
If you're looking for a party, you can get rowdy at Mercury Lounge with Dash Rip Rock, get your dance on with FuZed at Vanguard, or just plain celebrate at Hunt Club with Pop Machine. If you're in a country mood, you can check out Gretchen Wilson at River Spirit Events Center. Afterwards, make your way over to Red Dirt Dance Hall to check out the next generation of country girls as Kinsey Sadler holds the CD release party for her debut disc. And good old classic Southern rock gets its time in the spotlight as Lynyrd Skynyrd play The Joint.
Saturday, September 14
The country train rolls on as Luke Bryan headlines BOK Center with guests Florida Georgia Line and Thompson Square. (FYI: Thompson Square will tentatively be inducted into the Oklahoma Music Hall of Fame before the show.) Elsewhere around town, Brad James Band will be rocking the house at The Colony, Cole Porter Band brings honky tonk to The Merc, FM Pilots play Hunt Club and The Vanguard hosts a night of indie-pop with Wonderheim, All About A Bubble, Young Lyons and Carnegie.
Sunday, September 15
Tulsa Roots Music rocks the Guthrie Green again with Dan Zanes and Kongos, providing a fresh outlook with some South African jams. Meanwhile, over at the Jazz Hall of Fame, 7 Blue Trio plays an early, 5pm show for jazz fans.
Local rockers The Bourgeois open for Sick Puppies and Redlight Kings at Cain's Ballroom
Tuesday, September 17
Get your fix of gothic indie-folk rock when Murder By Death arrives at The Vanguard with Larry & His Flask for a wild night of country influenced indie rock.
It's a doubleheader night at The Vanguard hosts an early show with classic rock icons The Grandmothers of Invention (featuring Napoleon Murphy Brock and Don Preston of Zappa's original Mothers of Invention) playing a full set of Zappa material at 8pm. Afterwards, Lullwater steps up for a separate 10pm show for the indie rock crowd.
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