Braille is the 2002 3rd independent label release by accomplished singer-songwriter Anne Weiss. It is tastefully produced with a noticeably light touch. Nine originals and three covers offer the listener a variety of popular contemporary folk styles. Wise, caring, pensive lyrics tell personal stories that require careful and repeated listening to understand the story being told. Finger-picked guitar ballads feature sensitive accompaniment by electric or upright bass, electric guitar, cello, background vocals and keyboard, or assorted accent instruments like accordion, harmonica, wind instruments, and percussion. Some songs start up or modulate into full folk-rock rhythms as bass, drums, other instruments and background vocals join in. One song is accompanied only by piano. Several blues, some gospel and gospel-inspired blues, as well as a surprising and upbeat Latin dance number round out the balance of the recording. Though not sensational, her singing voice is very good for both the ballads and the blues, while in the traditionally structured gospel-inspired songs, her voice glides high and growls gently.
Listening for potential popular hits as is my habit, I decided that her excellent cover of Hard Time Killing Blues by Skip James is my favorite number. It was the one I wanted to hear again and again. Her blues guitar accompaniment is as good as it gets: very clean, tight, almost understated, never outdoing her light soprano. Of the three covers on the CD, two are traditional finger-picked Delta blues standards, a style she is definitely good at. I could therefore recommend Braille to anyone interested in hearing a talented woman's version of some blues classics as well as a good original blues tune. Contemporary folk singer-songwriter fans would find several other favorites among her accomplished originals, I'm sure. Many "Braille" reviews are very complimentary.
The "hits" I was listening for would be songs with a universal appeal almost anyone could sing as if they were their own. I was reminded of Joni Mitchell or Suzanne Vega-like folk and folk-pop-rock rhythms, unusual character profile songs and topical social commentaries (Tattoo, Roof of Rain, Me and the Piper, for example). And just as the majority of songs produced by those poetic artists are often individualistic in the extreme, Braille is a unique, very personal repertoire--Anne Weiss's particular way of using metaphors and musical styles to tell listeners about the truths she experiences. Although many of the lyrics seemed structured in too personal a way to learn and sing them myself, I thoroughly enjoyed hearing her sing and play the songs at least once. For that reason, I could easily recommend hearing her play in person--once or many times.
By most accounts a lively performer, Anne has shared stages with Dar Williams, Ani DiFranco, Dan Fogelberg, Richie Havens, Greg Brown, Catie Curtis, Patti Larkin, Cheryl Wheeler, Guy Davis, Ellis Paul, Jonatha Brooke, John Cephas and Phil Wiggins, Sapphire- the Uppity Blues Women, Sonia, Pierce Pettis, Guardabarranco, and many others. She appears on recordings with Shawn Colvin, Geoff Bartley, Jim Infantino, Patti Larkin, and is featured on several music compilations. Previous CDs include Tomorrow's Gate and Crossing the Border.
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