Catie Curtis

Catie Curtis

(Guardian 57209)

Guardian Records
810 Seventh Ave.
New York, NY 10019

A review written by the Folk & Acoustic Music Exchange
by Rick Teverbaugh
(rickert@netdirect.net)

_

It is safe to say that fans of Catie Curtis' first disc, Truth From Lies, will like or dislike her new, self-titled disc for reasons very different from those first impressions. Her newest outing has a very different, dare to say "commercial" feel to it. It is nearly more of a pop disc than a folk outing. Only Curtis knows whether this move was a natural progression of taste and talent or whether it was an adjustment in order to make disc sales more in line with the nearly overwhelming critical praise that was heaped upon Truth From Lies.

Now that the difference between the first two discs and the possible distasteful reasons for such a switch are out of the way, it is possible to state that "Catie Curtis" is deserving of no less abundance of praise than the first release. Where the first disc was intimate, this one is adventurous. Where the first disc was a bit naive, this one is worldly. Where the first disc's focus was only word pictures, the second one shows more concern with letting the music produce a mood-setting parchment to house the lyrics.

Much of the pop flavor can be attributed to producer Roy Bittan, who plays keyboards on the disc as he did for Bruce Springsteen's E Street Band. But the disc's players have much to do with that feel also. Kenny Aronoff, who has spent time with both John Mellencamp and Melissa Ethridge, plays drums. Tony Levin, known for work with Peter Gabriel, plays bass. The closest thing to maintaining an acoustic connection is the use of Jimmy Ryan on mandolin, he of Blood Oranges and Wooden Leg fame. It is Ryan's work that is the most memorable among the disc's 12 songs.

The heart of Curtis' work remains mostly unchanged. The focus still needs to be on her writing and her singing. In those areas the writing gets better marks than the singing. When Catie Curtis stumbles, and it doesn't often, it is because she is working too hard to stretch her vocal capabilities, as she does on Heroes and I Still Want To.

The writing is as good as ever. On Falling Silent In The Dark she writes;

In the dark of the winter, it's even cold in the sun
And that's probably a good thing because
It keeps me numb
So I can remember and not even cry
The smile on your face and the laugh in your eye.
On Heroes she offers good advice for those who want too much or try too hard in a relationship.
Heroes I don't know any
So stop trying to be one
And just be somebody
Someone
Who can be a fool
Someone who can love me
Not be silent and cool.

She also has an uncanny ability to take a vivid personality sketch and turn it into a song that should touch everyone and force an examination of the way we see others. Larry is a tale about a man who holds a young girl's interest for his reclusive ways and distinct appearance. What he does before song's end poses the question if someone looks and acts strange could it be because they are strange?

Forgiveness will likely cause the disc to get a bad review in People magazine and to fall into disfavor by those who find security in religion. But that's a part of Curtis' charm - her ability to question without actually posing one, to make a statement without waving a red flag.

Curtis grew up in Southern Maine, hence her ability to appreciate rural beauty and charm. Now she lives in Boston where she has grown into one of the brightest lights in the singer/songwriter genre.

Soulfully is the first cut pushed to radio and it is perhaps the most memorable song on the disc. But for repeated playings Memphis and Larry are the centerpieces of a disc that is again one of the top releases of the year.

Song List

  • Soulfully
  • I Don't Cry Anymore
  • River Winding
  • Falling Silent In The Dark
  • Heroes
  • Forgiveness
  • I Still Want To
  • Memphis
  • The Truth Is
  • Do Unto Others
  • Larry
  • Come to Me

For more on Curtis visit her web site: http://www.cgrg.ohio-state.edu/~kcizas/Catie_Curtis/

Edited by David N. Pyles
(dnpyles@acousticmusic.com)

Copyright 1997, Peterborough Folk Music Society.
This review may be reprinted with prior permission and attribution.

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