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Laini and the Wildfire – Wandering (Laini and the Wildfire)

Laini and the Wildfire - Wandering
10 January 2018

Listening to this New Haven, CT piano-fronted trio’s debut album (it follows up a 2016 self-titled EP), it’s hard to fathom that their powerful-piped lead singer Laini Marenick had never sung in front of anyone until her wedding three years ago. In fact, before deciding to pursue music full-time and forming the band (which also includes her bassist hubby Mark and drummer pal Rob Siraco, both from Tragically Said) in 2015, she’d been working for seven years in a stressful job as a children’s emotional and behavioral therapist. The group’s bio compares her sturdy, soaring croon to Adele, and that’s no stretch; you can almost envision the award-winning, mega-selling Brit belting out some of Wandering’s rousing, radio-friendly ballads, like the gloomy “Goodnight is Not Goodbye” or the stormy “Sunday.” But Marenick also adds ample amounts of ‘60s R&B and soul, as on the tantalizing opening title track, wrapping her vivacious voice around her words like Amy Winehouse (whose own 2007 U.K. #8 “Back to Black” the band covered on a 2017 single).

Elsewhere, the bouncy standout “Copilot,” buoyant “All the Love in the World,” and boppy “Thunder” are like long-lost Motown singles by Martha Reeves or Mary Wells; the opening piano melody on another tune, “Outside the Norm,” even brought to mind Wells’s 1962 “The One Who Really Loves You.” Each of the above songs is enhanced by palatial, modern rock-era production and Marenick’s Aretha Franklin-forceful, rafters-ascending roar, and augmented by her spouse’s and Siraco’s robust rhythms and spiraling, seal-the-deal harmonies. While she hints of her therapist years as being a “destructive time,” and regrets over a life not spent indulging her creative side often fuel her lyrics, Marenick’s resolute singing and radiant piano playing make Wandering feel rejuvinating, not remorseful. It’s never too late for a rebirth. (