Mitchell: Fiona Apple's pithy observations of life
This new studio album from Fiona Apple will forever be known as The Idler Wheel although for the record the full title is The Idler Wheel Is Wiser Than The Driver Of The Screw And Whipping Cords Will Serve You More Than Ropes Will Ever Do.
Oddly enough, this is not even the longest title of an Apple recording where the full title of her 1999 album When The Pawn…is the beginning of an eight line poem!
Apple isn’t very prolific having released just four albums since 1996’s simply titled Tidal, and The Idler Wheel was seven years in the making. But Apple’s large cult fan base has never left her, making this new album debut high up the charts without any airplay and nearly no chance of ever getting any.
Apple writes and performs quirky, alt-adult contemporary pop with jazz overtones with nary a hooky chorus in earshot.
Her fans know what to expect and Apple does not disappoint with her pithy observations on mature relationships that can be oblique and difficult to discern.
But where Apple shines is in her lyrical bomb snippets that sort of take you by surprise, as with: “I stared at you and cut myself” on Valentine and: “kiss me while I calculate and calibrate” on Jonathan. There is a hint of Carole King’s influence on the former while the latter carries an odd, jazzy time signature that is one of the keystones of Apple’s piano play.
The moodiest song here is Regret while Left Alone hears Apple singing “the tears calcify in my tummy” to an alt-blues vernacular.
Hard core fans will want to search out the two disc CD/DVD version that has five tunes recorded at this years SXSW fest, while the hard book cover jacket has 40 pages of hand-drawn lyrics and sketches and a fold out poster.
She is, as of yet, mostly unknown in Canada and just like Adele, Rebecca Ferguson’s very first exposure in North America is via CBC Radio and a Jian Gomeshi interview.
But Ferguson is best known in her native England as the runner up in 2010’s The X Factor and her huge endorsement from the very same Adele who put her phone on speed dial to keep adding her vote to the shows election box.
Adele’s management team has since picked up Ferguson for promotions.
This album came out a year ago in the U.K. where it reached the top of the R&B and soul charts but Heaven has only recently been released in Canada and with a different CD cover than the Brit version and one more song, Backtrack, added on to the tail end.
Ferguson’s sound is not that dissimilar to that of Adele and they share some of the same producers and songwriters but I also heard a hint of Amy Winehouse in the mix as well as (to go back a few years to the original TV Bat Girl) award winning jazz/cabaret singer Eartha Kitt.
But the accolades just keep pouring in.
The Daily Mirror dubbed this “heavenly indeed” while The Sun chipped in with “a new diva is born.”
Most of the tunes here are soulful old school styled ballads but there is a hint of club music with the throbbing bass lines of Glitter & Gold, the Michael Jackson grooves of Run Free, and the hip hop-lite of the Fugees on Fighting Suspicions.
A talent to watch.
The ABC & D of
Boogie Woogie: Live In Paris (Eagle Records)
The band’s name and its eponymous album title may not sound very promising but this foursome includes blues piano masters Alex Zwingenberger and Ben Waters (out of London who played at the Salmon Arm Music festival last year). The rhythm team is made up of 71-year-old Rolling Stones drummer Charlie Watts and bass player Dave Green. But it is the former who will most likely boost sales of this excellent live-jazz club recording made in France a couple of years ago.
The two aforementioned piano players are considered high luminaries of the usually fast-paced blues boogie woogie piano style associated with early legends such as Pete Johnson, Albert Ammons and Meade ‘Lux’ Lewis from the ’20s and ’30s and the group covers evergreens such as Roll ’Em Pete, Low Down Dog Blues, St. Louis Blues, and (Get Your Kicks On) Route 66—a song the Stones covered on their debut.
There are 14 tracks on this lengthy and generous album recorded in a very small and intimate blues club. It is a blast to hear the warts and all in these sessions where the lyrics are only half stabbed at on Chuck Berry’s gem Down The Road Apiece (as covered by the Stones on their second album).
An album made with just the right blend of reverence for the genre and good old fashioned fun.
Roots fans take note