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The Songbirds: Vol 3

August 10th, 2007 Leave a comment Go to comments

Rosie Thomas
Four very good albums down the road, and Rosie Thomas remains obscure enough to impress the Eva Cassidy Consensus — the type of people who rave about this posthumously overrated singer as if there aren’t dozens better ones — with something superior. Detroit-born Rosie (by all accounts an utterly delightful woman) knows how to create a mood. Relaxed, cute and humorous one moment, you wish you were with her to share a giggle, next she moves the listener to tears with her beautiful melodies and poignant lyrics. Songs like “Much Farther To Go”, with the gorgeous arrangement and the sad lyrics (“Sometimes I cry when it’s late at night, and you’re not there to lay next to me. Morning breaks and the sun warms my face…how I wish it was you warming me”) reach deep into the listeners’ soul. Likewise, “If This City Never Sleeps”, which opens Rosie’s latest album, communicates in sound and words the sort of undefinable yearning that makes us sigh uncontrollably for no good reason.
Rosie Thomas – If This City Never Sleeps.mp3
Rosie Thomas – Say Hello (with Sufjan Stevens).mp3
Rosie Thomas – Much Farther To Go.mp3

Catherine Feeny
One of those chance discoveries that make you feel great love for chance. I have not heard Catherine Feeny‘s debut, but her sophomore album Hurricane Glass, released last year and re-released this year, is quite excellent. Where is the buzz for this wonderful talent? Born in the US, Feeny lives in rural England; and the influence of two different rock tradition shows. Hurricane Glass is an intimate album with intelligent lyrics telling of of struggles with regret, disillusionment, insecurity, and melancholy, often mitigated by a sense of hope. I love this line from the excellent opener “Touch Back Down”: ” I have got to learn not to go choosing the ones who don”t choose me. I am always picking the fruit that”s furthest on the tree; it”s sweetest to me.” It should be fairly easy to get hold of “Mr Blue”, which has featured on a few soundtracks, a sweet song with a brilliant flugelhorn interlude. If re-releases qualify for consideration when we compile our Albums of the Year lists, Feeny will surely have a crack at inclusion in mine.
Catherine Feeny – Touch Back Down.mp3
Catherine Feeny – Hush Now.mp3

Sarah Bettens
Bettens is a half of the Belgian twosome K’s Choice, an act that is not as well known as it ought to be, despite releasing a string of fine albums since the early ’90s. In 2005 Bettens released her appealing solo debut, Scream, which veered between intimate ballads and alt.rock. In keeping with the songbird theme, I’ve picked up two of the slower songs. “Grey” was just a bonus track, which is puzzling; to me, it’s the best song on the album. The piano-driven song is not only very beautiful, but has thoughtful lyrics about the depth, fears and transience of love (“I have tasted happiness, the innocence of joy. Do we pay a price for every moment we enjoy? I can make you promises, but even I can’t say if everything I feel for you will never go away”). “Stay” is a bit more upbeat and quite catchy; I particularly enjoy Sarah’s hoarse voice.
Sarah Bettens – Grey.mp3
Sarah Bettens – Stay.mp3

Kathleen Edwards
Another talented alt.country singer doomed to remain stuck in the ghetto of tastefully compiled soundtracks (including the exquisite Elizabethtown OST). Life is very unfair. Canadian Kathleen Edwards, who recalls the likes of Lucinda Williams, has supported Dylan, the Stones, and more importantly, the excellent My Morning Jacket. Edwards anticipated the general apathy towards her music when on her 2003 debut Failer she acidly dedicated a song to the radio playlist compilers, “Another Song The Radio Won’t Like”. The catchy number deserved to be playlisted. Alas, Kathleen isn’t big in the blogosphere either (the absence of new material since early 2005, of course, has something to do with that). Well, this blog loves her.
Kathleen Edwards – Summerlong.mp3
Kathleen Edwards – Another Song The Radio Won’t Like.mp3


Tristan Prettyman

Tristan Prettyman came recommended to me by somebody who likened her to Jack Johnson, whom I like in only tiny doses. Her name also put me off from investigating her music. Then I saw the CD cover of this Californian singer’s debut album, and just had to hear what she sounded like. Happily, it was all very nice indeed (an appearance by her boyfriend Jason Mrzaz notwithstanding). Prettyman is breezier than most contemporary songbirds, and on occasion her sound does indeed recall Johnson. In fairness, I think her Twentythree album, released in 2005, was a bit patchy. But where it is good, it hits the right spots. Like these two tracks, the first a sweet ballad, the other breezily upbeat:
Tristan Prettyman – Melting.mp3
Tristan Prettyman – Always Feel This Way.mp3

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  1. Ill Folks
    August 10th, 2007 at 18:38 | #1

    Nice job with the Songbird series.Odd how some of your ladies get 70 or whatever hits, and others a fraction, when your writing for all of them would make anyone curious to hear more. Yeah…Edwards…she should be much better known. I reccomend Anne McCue to you.

  2. AnonymousCow
    August 10th, 2007 at 19:04 | #2

    Turn around time. After you’ve given me lots, I hereby present Jill Sobule (Brooklyn based, I believe) Definite influence of alt-country, but also Geffen/Webb/Bacharach in her writingSee http://www.jillsobule.com

  3. HCJoel
    August 11th, 2007 at 04:07 | #3

    Yes, Dude! Rosie Thomas is my favourite female singer-songwriter. As you probably know, those three songs also feature Sufjan Stevens and Denison Witmer in musical accompaniment. Other friends lending their assistance to the album include Jeremy Enigk (who sings with Rosie on her cover of Denison’s ‘Paper Doll’) as well as Damien Jurado & Dave Bazan (on the title track, ‘These Friends Of Mine’, which is my pick for the most moving song on the disc). Thanks for sharing her!

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