“Hello”, I Can Too‘s opening track, is a grand introduction to anyone unfamiliar with Canadian singer-songwriter Christina Martin. Pointed guitar strumming complements an agreeable musical twang, underscored by smoky bass, and framed by tight drumming. Even without the lyrics, there’s a sense that the musicianship would have carried the project through, as the instruments burst forward to tell Ms. Martin’s tales in their own unique ways.
Nevertheless, Christina Martin’s voice is every bit the instrument that the guitars or the keyboards are. She’s deceptively effective as a vocalist, her higher pitch so fragile sounding while pocketing something powerful that threatens to explode beyond the song structure, beyond the CD itself, beyond your speakers even. Through the quick tempo numbers (“Hello”, for instance), the heavy drums, and the wailing guitars, Martin makes her notes soar, sometimes lingering on her words to great cooing effect, and at other times conveying the urgent yet soothing mood of the tune. The slower entries, such as “Picture of a Sadman”, find our lead voice with a huskier tone, a powerhouse that’s still conspiratorial, as if she’s trading secrets with you but you’re too engaged in hers to trade any of your own.
It’s this level of vocal control and musical craftsmanship that makes the first six of I Can Too‘s 11 songs damn near flawless, exquisite. Which is not to say the rest of the album falters, it’s more a matter of degree and intensity, wherein the front of the album hits more uniquely, harder and deeper, while the back end exhales with slightly more familiarity. Take, for example, the “Be My Baby”-style tempo of the Ronettes that arrives in “I Fear I Am”, as well as the slightly worn theme of loneliness. However, the CD gets extra points for the cool cover art, featuring a lone boxer, poised for combat. It reminds me of a slightly less exacting, self-searching version of the artwork for Aimee Mann’s concept LP The Forgotten Arm. As the art implies, the musical journey of I Can Too resides in the inner world, and it’s a heck of a ride.