(Fair Trade Services)
Austin French’s vocal ability is the first thing that arrests your attention on his debut ful-length album, Wide Open. You’d surmise as much given that he’s appeared on televised singing competitions like Rising Star and The Voice, but it’s hard to prepare yourself for something so powerful and clean.
Fair Trade Services is the label home for the young artist, and French’s first offering is a mix of pounding pop numbers and powerful ballads. The latter are the album’s true reward since the slower pace and substantive lyrics give French’s vocal the chance to shine brightest. “Why God?” and “Spirit Speak” are the best of the lot, and the second is a simplistic duet with his wife that will hopefully serve as the diving board for future material.
The pop numbers themselves are fine, even as some like the title track veer into boy band territory. For the most part, it’s best to let French be the vocal powerhouse without perhaps forcing an up-tempo, radio-ready anthem just yet.