- The Washington Times - Saturday, September 15, 2001

Singer-songwriter Lucy Kaplansky took a long, hard look at life's darker side in the material she wrote for her latest recording, "Every Single Day," issued nationally on Tuesday.
The territory is familiar for a folk artist who formerly worked as a psychotherapist. Despite this record's haunting stories of abuse and illicit love affairs, and even coming as it does after the largely romantic "Ten Year Night," her third album on Red House Records in 1999, the songs on "Every Single Day" depict, more than anything else, Miss Kaplansky's growth as a songwriter.
"It's exactly the way I wanted it to sound, and more," Miss Kaplansky says, last month during a break in her touring schedule. "I knew that group of people would be able to produce the sound I wanted."
Miss Kaplansky is marking the CD's release with a concert that was scheduled for tonight in Alexandria at the Birchmere Music Hall.
Drummer Ben Wittman, who produced "Ten Year Night," also produced "Every Single Day." Also making a repeat appearance on this record is Larry Campbell from Bob Dylan's Never-Ending-Tour band, who has played mandolin, pedal steel guitar, fiddle and cittern on previous Kaplansky records.
But Miss Kaplansky also enlisted notable guitar sidemen Jon Herington and Duke Levine, and bassist Zev Katz. Singing harmony are Jennifer Kimball, long-time partner-in-harmony John Gorka, former Cry Cry Cry bandmate Richard Shindell and Buddy Miller, whose wife, Julie Miller, wrote one of the four cover songs that appear on the disc.
"These were just the topics that I felt were interesting songs," Miss Kaplansky says. "Even if they aren't about me, there has to be some piece of me that they are about. They aren't a narrative. What's important to me is that the songs are good, not what they're about. If they're dark, they're dark."
Miss Kaplansky co-writes with her husband, New York University film professor Richard Litvin.
"There are only so many love songs you can write," she says. "The kind of things that were occurring to Rick and me were other things."
Mr. Litvin came up with the idea for the opening track, "Written on the Back of His Hand," which Miss Kaplansky says is about "abuse, and in a very oblique, roundabout way, the way someone gets around that — i.e., therapy. We tried to sort of make a portrait of the process you go through if you want to overcome that sort of abuse."
Mr. Litvin also added some of the finishing touches to "Guilty as Sin," the story of a woman who has a series of affairs with married men.
"We tried to look at it as what she is trying to get psychologically and what she's trying to resolve. She's got this need to be this person who wins and turns away, but she keeps going after the unavailable, the unattainable. It's not about love, but it's about a need to resolve an unresolved issue."
"Nowhere," a song set in Greenwich Village, where Miss Kaplansky lives, actually was written during her tour of Britain last year, while she waited out a rainstorm in an English hotel room. But the subject matter is straight from Miss Kaplansky's former work as a therapist.
"It's a portrait of someone disassociating, very much based on my experiences working with patients," she says.
Music for the title cut was supplied by Mr. Levine, and Miss Kaplansky plunged into writing lyrics. "I was very inspired from that music. It was different from anything I had ever written," she says.
"The lyric was satisfying because it took months. Two of the key lines came to me literally when I was waking from a dream," she says. The song describes a performer who disguises his true feelings. Miss Kaplansky says the performer is a composite, a fictional character.
Characters in some of the other songs are real. In "No More Excuses," Miss Kaplansky completes a trilogy of angry songs she started with "The Thief" on her second record, "Flesh and Bone" in 1996, and carried through with "Turn the Lights Back On" on "Ten Year Night." The unnamed subject of all three songs is a self-centered person who hurts others, including the narrator, and who can't face life honestly.
"Song For Molly," the critics' early favorite for this record, is the only autobiographical song on "Every Single Day." The song revolves around Miss Kaplansky's memories of her grandmother, "who had Parkinson's and was in a nursing home from the time I was about 10 — a nursing home near my house. Gradually, she lost more and more of her memory. The nursing home was the saddest place I have ever been."
The more upbeat, "Don't Mind Me," was written for Seattle filmmaker Sherman Alexie. No takers have emerged for the film so far, which would have included a part for Miss Kaplansky. But the project produced a pop tune. "It just sort of came out that way," she says, "it wasn't really planned."
Miss Kaplansky says she chose her covers carefully to counterbalance the darker core songs on the record. Aside from Julie Miller's sad "Broken Things," Miss Kaplansky says the covers are "much more hopeful and lighthearted." They are Paul Brady's "Crazy Dreams," "You're Still Standing There" by Steve Earle and the bluegrass gem "The Angels Rejoiced Last Night" by the Louvin Brothers, Ira and Charlie.
Miss Kaplansky has met with growing success during the past eight years. After earning her doctorate and working in New York as a hospital therapist — all the while contributing harmony on folk records her friends were making, she issued "The Tide" in 1994. That disc, comprising mostly cover songs, and "Flesh and Bone," for which she wrote most of the songs, reached the Top 10 and Top 20 respectively on the Gavin Report's Americana charts. "Ten Year Night" was her breakthrough. The title song was the second-most-played song on folk radio in 1999, and "End of the Day" from that CD was on the BBC's national playlist for more than two months last year. Those accomplishments, combined with the 1999 Cry Cry Cry tour with Mr. Shindell and Dar Williams, expanded Miss Kaplansky's fan base exponentially.
She has guarded hopes for "Every Single Day."
"The music business is so tough, all you can hope for is that your fans like it and that maybe it will bring you some new fans," she says. But, perhaps, this record will "make it bigger, so I can go out [and perform] with backup musicians more often. That is my dream. I'd like that trend to continue."


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