First there’s the voice. It’s a voice of great and soulful authority, one-part Joan Baez, one-part Loretta Lynn. There’s a southern twang and a bluesy edge, and a delivery sharp as a knife, sending the words forward with power. To greatly spirited tracks fleshed out with great textures of banjo (by Randy Ray Mitchell), fiddle (Dennis Caplinger) and beautiful harmony vocals. Even Calico The Band, also reviewed herein, bring their vocal magic to the title song. Phil Parlapiano, who used to play with John Prine, is on expressive accordion. She’s a wonderful songwriter, conjuring up brand new country classics such as “Mama’s Sleepin’,” which resounds like a lost Merle Haggard gem, and the title song, “Heavy Load,” an ode to the burdens all humans carry. These are often heavy songs, but affirmative, such as the great “Troubles To The Wind,” a treatise on getting by. “Bumble Bee” is a brisk shuffle she flies over with bumble bee busy fiddle and slide guitar guiding her way. It all ends with “What Don’t Kill Ya,” in which she employs great rockabilly Elvis phrasing and an exhilarating chord pattern to take us home with good advice. It’s all about paying dues, and no songwriter gets to this realm without them, and without the burden of being an artist in an industry, an equation always tough to complete. She does it with great soulful confidence, as impressive as the amazing guitar solo by Randy Ray on this last track – all pyrotechnics and flash – exhilarating – yet down to earth. This is a great album by an artist who has found the perfect path to walk. That she’s the chosen opening act for other great female artists, such as Joan Baez and Judy Collins, makes sense, as she is all spirit, all power and focus and grace.
Feel So Pretty
She’s a wonderfully emotive singer and songwriter, and teamed up with acclaimed producer-engineer Steve McDonald, has created an album of great strength. Songs such as the opener, “You Must Know” and the gorgeous “Like Water,” reveal a songwriter of great sensitivity and depth. If only for “Chasing Cars,” with rich harmonies by John Pratt, this would be well worth the price of admission; a great and visceral examination of human impetus, it’s the eternal decision between life and inaction. There are two versions- intimate and with band – of “Under My Skin,” evidence of a sturdy song, potent in both treatments. Boasting a beautiful melody – complex yet direct – it’s romantic and luminous. McDonald delicately embraces these songs with gentle but vigorous dynamics, and the great musicianship of many amazing and beloved musicians, including Bob Malone on organ, Mike Baird on drums, Marty Rifkin on pedal steel, Karen Nash on harmony vocals, Chris Trujillo on percussion, and Bob DeMarco on guitar. Malone also composed beautiful string arrangements. This is powerful stuff.
The Journey of A Song, 60s & 70s (A Book)
By Warren Sellers
Nobody understands songs – their creation, their life, their timeless spirit and impact – like songwriters. Warren Sellers is a songwriter, former staff writer for McJames Music and Windswept Pacific/3 Ring Circus. What he’s created here is a beautiful love-letter to songs and the remarkable songwriters who create them. Sellers knows that writing a timeless, perfect song is genuine magic. Unlike magicians who create an illusion of magic, songwriters create real magic: songs which, in the space of just a handful of minutes, can contain timeless, indestructible beauty. But how do these magicians make this magic? The answer is here, lovingly relating the poignant stories of how songwriters got to the place where great songs came through. Even when the stories are already known, as they are to the assorted rainmen of popular song, the stories are so sweetly conveyed that each is a joy. “Here Comes The Sun,” by George Harrison, was sparked, as many may know, by an unseasonably sunny day in Eric Clapton’s garden, in which the Beatle strolled with an acoustic guitar. Other songs are sparked by objects, such as the vase that Joni Mitchell bought in an antique store, triggering a song by her then-boyfriend, Graham Nash, called “Our House.” Each story is about a beautiful and beloved song, and each told in a clever way, leading us like a mystery writer with telling details and clues before the mystery is revealed, the birth of another great song. It’s a testament to the superhuman abilities of songwriters, who transform the mundanity of our everyday lives into lasting vessels of beauty, passion and inspiration. A great work, this book is. As it’s labeled with two decade identifications, hope remains there will be a sequel.