A voice as impressive as Regina Bonelli’s, which she shows off on Truth Hurts, is a mixed blessing. It can dominate songs and arrangements and make it harder to put across subtle emotions. A comparable might be fluid guitarists who can spray notes as the cost of nuance. Sometimes outsized talent makes it harder to convey simple ideas.
Truth Hurts is a collection of blues-influenced songs from a variety of genres. Bonelli’s voice is at the center of each track, impossible to ignore, but always awe-inspiring. Part of her intensity is easy to understand. Coming from her time as a background singer, she’s probably looking to step into the spotlight and show off what she’s got.
But the album’s more captivating songs are the ones where Bonelli lays back a bit. For instance, “The Last Tear” has a slowed-down disco groove, with plenty of funky wah guitar. The track is very 70s, for lots of reasons, but especially because of Bonelli’s soulful snarl that shows a bit of vulnerability as she sings about the last tear she’ll cry for someone who hurt her.
Her take on Darondo’s soulful “Didn’t I” is also restrained, with Bonelli working her upper register, which while reducing her vocal impact, shows off a playful side. It feels much less about Bonelli blowing the doors off of the song, which she seems to be able to do seemingly effortlessly, and more about doing justice to Darondo’s sweet melodies.
Bonelli is backed by The True Groove All-Stars and their guitarists, Tomás Doncker and James Dellatacoma, who also produced the album, and who balance out Bonelli’s vast vocal presence with clever, tasty guitar work, which is simple but always compelling. For instance, on “Cross to Bear,” a slow blues, Bonelli jumps in with both feet, starting the song on a boil and only making it hotter. But the stinging guitar, thoughtfully emotive, helps to lend the track some equilibrium, by giving Bonelli a strong foil to work against. Singing that hot can feel overwhelming, but the guitar work gives the listener another focal point. And it also helps that the guitar playing is stellar.
There’s no denying Bonelli’s talent. It’s apparent from her first note. But sometimes rock and blues require holding something back a little. For instance, on “Baby Don’t Hurt Me,” a sweet, 50s-influenced tune, Bonelli sings about a lover who wronged her, repeating the chorus of “Baby don’t hurt me.” And while she channels some hurt, her voice is so strong, it’s hard to believe someone, or anything, could hurt her. A smaller take might have helped her more effectively put across the song’s emotions.
But the album still has strong performances and well-constructed guitar lines. Bonelli is bombastic and if that’s what you’re looking for, she’s going to deliver the goods.
The Review: 7.5/10
Can’t Miss Tracks
– Didn’t I
– Cross to Bear
– The Last Tear
The Big Hit
– The Last Tear