Actress, singer, and native Austinite Myrna Cabello began recording her debut album in the spring of 2007, when the unexpected happened: She developed Bell’s Palsy, a type of paralysis, on the right side of her face. This news left Myrna devastated, as she wondered if she would be able to continue to pursue her passion for singing. She didn’t give up on her music and resumed recording a year later. The result is the album Letting Go, a title that on the surface refers to relationship troubles, but a title that can also be taken as a lesson for dealing with the emotional woes of coping with illness and unforeseen circumstances.
The strongest aspect of the album is Myrna’s vocal. She’s got pipes and can belt, but she can also do subtle and bluesy. She’s not stuck in one gear vocally, which allows for varied styles. But the problem I have with this album is the music that accompanies the vocals. Now first of all, I have to admit that as a 20-something male I’m probably not the target demographic for this kind of music: a mix of contemporary blues-rocks, country-rock, and gospel, with hints of Latin rhythm that sometimes come off feeling less than authentic. But I am open-minded and will give any CD an honest chance. The music on Letting Go doesn’t do Myrna’s voice justice. All too often, the songs sound dated; take, for example, the lead single “Drunk” with its saxophone riffs and guitar licks straight out of 1986. Another track, “Let It Go,” falls into this same trap.
Myrna does have an impressive cast of supporting players, however. Fellow Austinite singer/actress Patricia Vonne lends castanet and harmony duties on the opening track “Baila Teresa,” one of the stronger songs on the album. It’s an appropriate choice, since Vonne’s Latin-tinged roots rock seems to be the template that Letting Go attempts to follow. However, the album just can’t muster the strength, attitude, and musicality of Vonne’s best-known works. Track 8, “Reoccurring Dream,” is a great song because it is subtle and doesn’t try too hard to grab your attention. But too often, the songs on Letting Go sound tacky and over-the-top (the full gospel choir on “Answers,” for example). But with music, as with any art, it is best to proceed with an open mind and a sense of context. Myrna’s concert calendar says she’s playing at Jovita’s and Guero’s this month. Would I feel comfortable eating dinner with my folks on a Friday evening while Myrna and crew played? Yes. But would I listen to this album at home? No.