- The Washington Times - Saturday, November 9, 2002

Morrigan

Unbearably Sweet

(Self-produced)

It isn't hard to forecast stardom for Morrigan, a talented young singer-songwriter from the Washington area who has just released her first CD, "Unbearably Sweet," following a 1998 EP titled "Learner's Permit."

Morrigan, aka Christine M. Condo, grew up in Vienna. She paid her dues as a young performer, honing her vocal chops in classical voice training and it shows. She has performed at Paramount's Kings Dominion since graduating from James Madison High School in 1991, has sung with an alternate-rock band and lately has been making the rounds at area open mikes.

Her CD release party is scheduled at Jammin' Java in Vienna at 8 p.m. on Nov. 21.

This recording, nicely produced by guitarist Brad Allen, has enough alternate-rock verve for wide appeal to the 20-somethings Morrigan wants to attract. But it provides some outstanding moments of mature artistry, too.

Take "My City." This finely crafted song about life in Washington has more universal appeal than the three pop tunes that preceded it on the record, including the opening title track, although it's not as commercial or radio friendly. It has an outstanding bridge that rings so true: "You may have moved here/You think you know us well/You think we've adopted you/You think you blend/But you don't swim in our energy/And we know there's another place that you still call home."

The penultimate track, "Get the Door," has an Alanis Morrisette-like sound, only a bit softer, with a lyric much more clever than anything Miss Morrisette has written "Would someone else get the door/I'm not speaking to my dreams anymore/I've woken up again; please just tell them I'm not in."

Morrigan plays guitar on all the songs but two, when she slips behind the piano for "Waiting" and the last track, "Flood," which features a hauntingly memorable vocal: "Too many days spent stiff and wasted/Not comfortable in any chair/Curled up on the kitchen floor/Sticky with despair." Jay Votel


"Divine Discontent"

Sixpence None the Richer

Warner Bros.

Music enthusiasts everywhere will welcome "Divine Discontent," the first release from Sixpence None richer in almost five years.

It is well worth the wait.

The band, which consists of Leigh Nash, Matt Slocum, Sean Kelly, Justin Cary, Rob Mitchell, and Jerry Dale McFadden, has been involved in contractual wrangles that delayed the album's release almost two years.

The first single, "Breathe Your Name," is sure to be a chart topper with its dreamy sound, much in the same way as their past hits, "Kiss Me" and "There She Goes." The song, about the way one person influences another, says, "So many days within this race, I need the truth, I need some grace."

"Tonight," the second track, with a full rock sound, reflects the indecision the band faced while waiting for music industry professionals to decide their fate.

Although Mr. Slocum penned most of the songs on the album, Miss Nash, the lead vocalist, contributed on "Down and Out of Time" and "Eyes Wide Open," both about sorrow and regret. "Waiting for the Sun," written by Ron Aniello and Jason Wade of Lifehouse, is one of the best tunes and would make a great second single. A cover of the Crowded House classic, "Don't Dream It's Over," is likely to be a concert pleaser.

"Still Burning," a full orchestrated ballad, explores suffering as a gift and a catalyst to help one transition to a better life. The chorus was inspired by German writer, Rainer Maria Rilke.

"Melody of You," describes God in a poetic manner similar to the Psalms and is absolutely breathtaking.

With a heavy rock sound, "Paralyzed" describes a real-life encounter Miss Nash and Mr. Slocum had with a journalist whose best friend, another journalist, was killed while covering the war in Kosovo in 1999. The song is truly gripping, especially when Miss Nash repeats: "I breathe in, I breathe out."

"I've Been Waiting" is about failed relationships. All through the album, Miss Nash's breathy vocals draw the listener into the mood. Although one senses a sadness in her voice, there also is a peaceful quality about it. "Dizzy," a song in triple meter, is about aspiring to be like some of the major biblical characters, such as King David, the Apostle Peter and "doubting" Thomas.

"Tension Is a Passing Note," another acoustic ballad, makes one of the best philosophical statements on the album. The lyric says, "Tension is to be loved when it is like a passing note to a beautiful, beautiful chord." The album ends with "A Million Parachutes," a song for which Mr. Slocum enlisted the help of Nashville songwriter Sam Ashworth. It was obviously inspired by watching the snow fall.

With poetic and profound lyrics and stunning arrangements, "Divine Discontent" is one of the best releases of the year. Jen Waters


"Paradise"

Kenny G

Arista

Kenny G's latest CD, "Paradise," comes with all the hype expected of a man dubbed in promotional materials as "the best selling instrumentalist in the world." The man with that sultry half smile is both a writer and performer on an 11-track album that runs the gamut of moods and musical styles.

It's easy listening party music, if you will but that isn't putting it down altogether. Apparently, his pleasing quality gets through to an audience that wants comfort music to go with their comfort food. The syncopated rhythms aren't so complex that they challenge a listener, nor too bland to be unenjoyable. He has a sure ear for popular taste, and apparently his formula works: nothing too deep nor too strong to disturb.

The album begins on an upbeat, the familiar samba heat of "Brazil," riveting and relentless, before it switches to the title piece, "Paradise," a soulful tune of melancholic dimensions. The romantic strain picks up with "Malibu Dreams," "Spanish Nights" and segues into a number (one of the two he didn't compose) sung by vocalist Chante Moore.

Kenny G is out front and dominant in most of the cuts, offering his wistful, cheerful sounds that aren't altogether unlikable, but, admit it, for some people the lilting beat gets monotonous after a while.

The Seattle-born performer has produced 13 albums, with "Paradise" his first one in three years, so the man must be doing something right. Undoubtedly, versatility is one of his chief assets. He has played synthesizer, flute, tenor and soprano sax, and minimoog. The sax is his signature instrument, of course, since the mellow tones adapt well to his evocative melodies.

Want an "escape mechanism?" Turn on "Seaside Jam" and "Ocean Breeze," lie back and dream your life away. Reassurance is his forte in the closing number as well, titled "Peace." Ann Geracimos


"New Earth Mud"

Chris Robinson

Redline Entertainment

Chris Robinson is a lucky man. A lanky, ungainly dude who once seemed as if he were wasting away on an assortment of illegal pharmaceutical powders, Mr. Robinson is now married to the perky and naturally beautiful actress Kate Hudson.

Moreover, his former band, the Black Crowes who, despite a devoted touring audience, struggled to break the six-figure barrier in record sales after the stunning success of their "Shake Your Money Maker" debut finally disbanded last year.

Yet Mr. Robinson, after more than a decade's worth of rock 'n' roll excess and waste, endures.

His first solo album, "New Earth Mud," reminds us why we flipped for the Crowes in the early '90s: the refreshingly honest and authentic voice that sounds like Otis Redding fronting Led Zeppelin; the unvarnished production; the unembarrassed fusion of British rock and the rootsy sounds of the American South.

Without the input of Mr. Robinson's brother and longtime collaborator, Rich, "New Earth Mud" is short on riff-based rock, with several compositions "Silver Car," "The Kids That Ain't Got None" and "Barefoot by the Cherry Tree" that bear comparison to "American Beauty"-era Grateful Dead or early Neil Young.

Composed mostly on acoustic guitar, the songs on "New Earth Mud" are airy and unhurried, leaving lots of room for the throaty soulfulness of Mr. Robinson's pipes and often trippy lyrics.

His aide-de-camp, Paul Stacey, who co-wrote about half the album and served as a musical director for the project, fills in the gaps on a myriad of instruments guitar, piano, Wurlitzer, Fender Rhodes, Moog synthesizer and is largely responsible for the often spacey atmospherics of "New Earth Mud." (Mr. Robinson met Mr. Stacey through the band Oasis, which toured with the Crowes last year.)

When he's not waxing folksy, Mr. Robinson funks it up: There's the Isley Brothers-style soul ballad "Could You Really Love Me" and the Parliamentesque "Ride," both of which put the "mud" in "New Earth Mud."

He also bravely risks sounding cheesy and sentimental with "Katie Dear," a paean to his wife, but it's actually quite moving, with Mr. Robinson strumming in a beautifully haunting guitar tuning and singing lyrics that aren't hurt by visual evocations of his wife.

The Stone Temple Pilots' Dean DeLeo co-wrote the album's only misfire, "Better Than the Sun," a too-clever bit of psychedelia.

Mr. Robinson doesn't rule out working with the Crowes again, but if he keeps making albums like "New Earth Mud," there won't be many people clamoring for such a reunion. Scott Galupo

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