Linda Imperial is a lifer. The talented vocalist and songwriter is not, at this advanced date, going to redirect her energies towards a medical career. I believe, however, she would never say she chose the path of a singer. I am convinced she would instead claim this role was chosen for her, that she is born to sing, placed here so she may use her great gift to move human hearts. Whatever flaws Heart Rock possesses, and it by no means is a perfect collection, the EP reverberates with hard-won experience and strong-willed personality.
She associates herself with the best musicians. Producer/guitarist Joel Jaffe joins bass player Marc Levine, drummer Kevin Hayes, and keyboardist Eammon Flynn as Imperial’s musical collaborators. Their collective experience with artists as diverse as Michelle Shocked and Van Morrison informs the arrangements for each of the EP’s five tracks. Those experiences, likewise, allows Imperial’s music to straddle the line between invoking the past and possessing its own individuality. “I Found Me” is a wonderful statement of purpose for kicking off the release.
“I started writing Valentine poems about my husband, David. Then I realized I could put my own music to them but I needed help. So I asked my long time frien…
Its bluesy gravitas and slinky groove is ideal for an opening number. Imperial digs into the track without ever exerting too much muscle and her ability to get under the skin of a track serves her well. The band provides a seamless and deeply felt performance. Hardy Hemphill’s harmonica playing is effective though incorporating it into the vocal lines instead of highlighting it between the verses is, perhaps, an error. If so, it is minor.
“You’re A Fake” picks up the tempo but, overall, comes across as cut from much the same cloth as “I Found Me”. A song such as this reflects her extensive experience – this dismissive finger-pointing diatribe in song never comes off as heavy-handed thanks to Imperial’s deceptively simple artistry. Contrasting her lyrical message with another roots rock arrangement, distinguished by Hays’ drums and Jaffe’s six-string embellishments, has a potent effect on listeners.
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The EP’s title song finds its mark thanks to the slide guitar and piano playing. Imperial, make no mistake, delivers an emphatic vocal performance that works well in tandem with each respective instrument. The project, overall, achieves a consistent unity of sound and skill elevating far above the genre’s standard fare. “Just Right” rates as one of Heart Rock’s best cuts. This obvious choice for a single release is an impassioned love song that, nevertheless, never succumbs to theatrics in place of real emotion. It is a paean to her husband of over thirty years, onetime Quicksilver Messenger Service co-founder and member and longtime Jefferson Starship member David Freiberg and features Freiberg on backing vocals and guitarist Marc Cooper on guitar. The accompanying lyric video released with “Just Right” compliments it without ever relying too much on cliché.
“The Storm is Over” closes Heart Rock with more of the cool blues strut shaping many of the EP’s songs. The themes of this final cut neatly dovetail into similar ground covered in earlier tracks but Imperial still sounds fresh. It is apparent, on first listen, that these tracks will readily translate over to the stage with little effort. Imperial has a voice suited for live audiences and there’s no doubt she’ll fully realize their potential when given the opportunity.