The entrancingly beautiful Deborah Falconer has been a model, an actress, a junkie and wife to Robert Downey, Jr., with whom she had a child before they separated in 1996. Now put aside any preconceived notions you might have. The 37-year-old Falconer is not only an amazingly sensitive vocalist, she’s a talented songwriter and lyricist, too.
After performing for the first time at a friend’s club, shortly after her and Downey split, Falconer was inspired to kick her drug habit and pursue a career in music. Her latest album, Brave Like Me, released on her own label (Ravish), is full of seductively sung Adult Album Alternative with slightly funky drumbeats and simple, heartfelt lyrics that often wax poetic. With a sound that falls somewhere between Norah Jones, Macy Gray and Sarah McLaughlin, Falconer shows her accessibility but maintains artistic integrity.
She’s vulnerable without being naïve and, when she sings, you can hear her drawing deeply from the pain she’s experienced. But Falconer seems to transcend this pain in the same breath she summons it.
Perhaps it’s the whole recovering junkie thing but, like James Taylor, her voice has this soothing quality—the hush that follows torrential downpour, thunder and lightning; serenity in the wake of the flood.
Brave Like Me’s producer, Clay Stiles (Dandy Warhols), gets creative with the album’s instrumentation but tastefully exercises restraint when it comes to over-polishing. Floating just beneath the surface of the well-crafted songs, there’s a healthy amount of musical textures coloring the sound—twinkling Fender Rhodes, organ, strings and pedal steel are anchored by a core of drums, bass, guitar and piano. The band features a well-seasoned lineup of musicians including Geoffrey Moore (The Dust Brothers), Shaun Davis (Nikka Costa) and Chris Joyner (Sheryl Crow, The Wallflowers).
The seven-minute closing track, “My Friend,” is one of the album’s many highlights—its weeping blend of strings wash over the listener with a quiet sadness that begs for redemption. The song explores intense feelings of heartache and confusion before being punctuated by an extended outro, during which the violin and cello converse with a tender, mournful sympathy.
In 2001, Falconer shared the bill at a benefit concert with the likes of Sting, Elton John, Aimee Mann, Beck and Daniel Lanois. If the company she keeps isn’t enough of an indicator of her potential as an artist, Brave Like Me certainly is. The album finds the songwriter/vocalist beginning to hit her stride. It’s no surprise to find out Falconer’s father was a lounge singer—for her, crooning is in the blood.