Dale's Fried Pies' Awesome Girl Squad is an effort by Dale's Fried Pies to promote awesomeness in and beyond Knoxville, particularly the creative projects of awesome girls. Three times a year, we'll donate one day of profits from Dale's Fried Pies mobile pie stand to an awesome girl applicant to help her follow through with a creative project.
Our first Awesome Girl inductee was 17 year old Graham Marema, who proposed using an Awesome Girl grant to help produce her first album as a budding singer/songwriter. Now, less than a year after receiving her grant, Graham has released her debut album, Backwards.
As I think about how to describe this album, my inclination is to highlight Marema's youth-- "Can you believe she did this, and she's only 17?!" And her youth does come through-- in her sweetly cherubic voice, in writing about young love and characters from Harry Potter, in the the album's whimsical cover art. But this album succeeds not in spite of Marema's rookie status, but because she incorporates her youthful sound and outlook into the album in a way that makes it accessible to music lovers of all ages.
The title track, "Backwards Ballad" follows a couple from the end of their relationship to the very beginning. Its opening line "I wrote our story backwards and in it you were happy" exemplifies the elegant foreshadowing which is the central conceit of the song. In describing the rewound version of her first glimpse at her love, Marema sings "I looked away in that instant before we met." The song is clever, but Marema employs a measured subtlety that keeps the song from being purely a schtick. The song ends with Marema singing "And I felt nothing in the dark." While she may feel nothing at the end of this song, I feel both hopeful and heartbroken in equal measure.
Perhaps my favorite song on the album is "The Fish," which is alternately pulls at your heart with the way Marema sings "Oh oh oh boy, don't you see what's happening to me?" and makes you chuckle with lines like "sat down and told the fish, that they should come with us, but they couldn't see him because they were fish." While Graham's soulful voice and clever lyrics give the album cohesion, she alternates between sincere, cheeky, slow & measured, and light & boppy. And I swear she's channeling my longtime favorite singer/songwriter Leona Naess on the track "Underwater." The themes of feeling underwater, being in darkness and the adventures of love are certainly applicable to the life of a teenager, but I'd say they're also ones to which we can all relate.
Graham Marema's album Backwards is available on iTunes for just $8.91.