Songs from the Attic
Like many American Idol contestants, Brooke White didn't arrive at the big stage without some musical past. Taylor Hicks had many independent recordings to his credit before he auditioned for the show and, most famously, White's competitor Carly Smithson was once a major-label recording artist called Carly Hennessy, so the discovery that Brooke released an independent album called Songs from the Attic is not earth-shattering. Nor is it really earth-shattering that the album shares a title with Billy Joel's 1981 live LP, the record where he revisited gems from his '70s singer/songwriter albums, as Brooke revealed herself on Idol to be a disciple of '70s singer/songwriters. Truth be told, despite the piano flourish that opens "Free" -- a phrase that wouldn't have seemed out of place on Turnstiles or The Stranger -- Brooke doesn't have much in common with Billy; she's closer to Carole King and Carly Simon territory here, just as she is on American Idol. The difference is, through its reliance on covers and occasional stripped-down solo showcases, the show emphasizes the classicist elements of her sounds while the production on Songs from the Attic goes out of its way to have White sound relatively modern, moving her up to at least the late '90s with its meticulous polish. While that doesn't necessarily sound contemporary -- especially when compared to similar efforts by 2008 pop singer/songwriters like Sara Bareilles and Marié Digby, which both boast hipper sounds than this, a nice byproduct of their major-label status -- the album nevertheless does suggest that White could play in the big leagues, as her voice is warm and sweet on record and, better still, she pens a few winning pop tunes with "Free," the loping "Come to My Rescue," "The Way Love Used to Be" and "Let It Go," her best ballad here. Strangely, the songs that really fall flat are her covers of Aerosmith's "Dream On" and Coldplay's "Yellow," which are slick, flattened, and forced, awkward in a way she never is on Idol. But these are the exceptions to the rule on Songs from the Attic -- the rest of the album is good mainstream singer/songwriter pop, good enough to suggest that whatever major-label boost she may receive in the wake of American Idol will help her fulfill the promise of this charming small-scale debut.