Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Reviews:: Sarah White & The Pearls White Light

Sarah White sings with the wisdom of age. I have no idea how old she is but she’s been putting out records for at least a decade, so unless she was Smoosh before Smoosh was Smoosh, I’d wager she’s seen a lot. I’m not sure if it is her influences (she is a fan of 70’s country but not restricted to trying to cram her inspiration into that mold) or her words, but her songs are like a treasure you find at a yard sale. On first glance most people walk right by, but when you look at the subtle wear and tear of time and take the chance, you find something with character and a story worth telling.

I really wish I could throw Sarah into a genre and happily move on. It would make review the record that much easier. After hearing her song on the yerbird folk comp, I assumed her songs would all travel slowly down the same path, but White Light starts with the angry strums of Spoken Word. A simple, pounding drum beat matches the angry tone of the song and set a distinct tone for this release.

With a title like Fighting Words, I expected the next song to be much the same. Instead, this song really shows the maturity of Sarah’s words. Her matter of fact analysis of an insignificant fight with a lover show she’s been through it before, burned once too often. “It’s fighting words now baby, when you hang up on me. Think they don’t count, think they are free.”

This song is the first time the White Pearls (Jeffrey Grosfeld on bass and Steve Ingham on drums) share the vocals, shouting along with Sarah on the chorus. For any country-influenced song writer, a good band is essential to help set the emotional state of the record, and the White Pearls seem to match Sarah perfectly. They know when to speak up and bulk up the sounds, and when to simply hold rhythm and time for her. They also add the simple instrumentation or vocals that really solidify the songs. The country warble on California, the blast of horns on Edification, the three part harmonies on My Brother, or the fiddle on the tail end of Sarah Arizona add just enough to keep the album from blurring the lines between songs, but never too much polish. Part of the success of the record is the rough edges and simple melodies.

The tempo is eventually slowed down and Sarah falls into more of the style I assumed she’d play on We Have a Song. The marching band snare tap, country waltz is charming. It’s a touching song of lost love that sways like a tree in a gentle breeze. “Loss or regret that makes the eyes wet.” We’ve all been there. Did we make a mistake? Should we have stayed?

That is the thing I love about this record. She sings about things that happen to us all, but like Neko Case, her characters come to life and seem to experience the same events in a much different way. Her songs come across with that sincerity I look for. I Can’t Wait is a simple track about the anticipation of seeing a friend after so long. Playing the same old songs on the guitar. Just wanting to have a cold beer. Even her tender falsetto seems stretched, like she is putting herself out there for this friend. Like this relationship lets her step outside herself which isn’t something she normally does.

This record is more or less a look into a well traveled person’s soul. It’s happy, sad, optimistic, angry, and frustrated, often within a single song. It’s everything we all are, which makes it such a great listen. It makes you want to sing along and smile, knowing you’ve been through almost all the same things.

MP3:: Inside a Room
Buy White Light from Antenna Farm Records

Posted at 12:36 PM by ack :: 0 comments

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