Some Lessons: The Bedroom Sessions
I choose this title for this post to first bring attention to the fact that this album can not be found! I’ve looked everywhere for even a hard-copy of the CD, if not a digital version. It appears to no longer exist.
But first things first. Some Lessons: The Bedroom Sessions is the name of vocalist/songwriter Melody Gardot‘s first self-released EP (2005), and I can’t find it anywhere. This is surprising, considering the spectacular circumstances under which the EP was created. Melody Gardot’s car accident has gotten her a lot of critical acclaim, and (unfortunately), probably helped propel her to semi-stardom. Nonetheless, I am eager to hear what her most naked and unaffected attempts at recording sound like. (Mostly for very self-absorbed, self-motivating reasons), so if anyone knows how to get their hands on it, do let me know!
Even without access to her first recordings, there is a lot of great new music to be heard by this Philadelphia based vocalist. Her first full length album Worrisome Heart was released in 2008, and contains the perfect track “Love Me Like a River Does” that first drew my attention.
On many occasions she successfully recaptures Nina Simone’s signature vocal shudder, a warble so steeped in emotion that your hands fall to your lap, your productivity grinds to a halt, and you’re struck by the moment of being so urgently human.
“Gone” is an excellent example of Melody’s signature style of songwriting. The song carries a lot of country/folk undertones, but she brings back the old school jazz vocalisms when she scats over a simple guitar line. Speaking of guitar lines, I wish she played more often. The guitars presence in each of Miss Gardot’s tracks is refreshingly simple, open, and honest. It shapes a collection of songs made to be sung, and the voice is given its full due respect as an instrument that Melody has cultivated with the utmost taste and delicacy.
My One and Only Thrill, released Spring of last year, is her second and most recent studio album to date.
Not all of the songs are as musically successful in my opinion. She’s still a new artist, finding her voice. Tracks like “Our Love is Easy” & “Quiet Fire” miss their mark, mostly I think in the quality of sounds chosen to compliment her voice. I think she needs the right producer (not Larry Klein) to really compliment her talents, instead of overshadow them. There are more minimalist tracks, like “Goodnite”, “Who Will Comfort Me”, and the magnificently delivered “If the Stars Were Mine” that really make want to believe in Melody’s potential to generate an outstanding repetoire of original music.
My only real complaint may be the frequent presence of Vince Mendoza’s orchestral “strings”, (see “Baby, I’m A Fool”. It smacks of a tacky, overly zealous producer. I recognize however, this aversion may be a strictly personal sentiment, and for many listeners the strings may touch on that romanticism I believe he was working towards, rather than dragging the recordings down into the over-sentimentality and excess I think they bring.
Certain vocal textures, imagery and production will definitely channel the monumental successs of Norah Jones in 2002. These two artists, along with Madeline Peyroux (equally “french” and sensitive), and even my favorite of the present set, Mirah, fit rather neatly into a category of acoustic female vocalists that I fear might get reduced too quickly to coffee house acoustic wallpaper. I wonder if the music is overly effeminate? Perhaps, but I’m interested in hearing from some men whether or not these new female vocalists pack enough punch to reach a non-gendered audience, like the potent, fiery women (Nina Simone, Janis Joplin, Ella Fitzgerald) who clearly paved the way for their success. I have a feeling that lot of men might find themselves equally moved by these “bedroom sessions” that are so intimate, so arousing, and yet innocent as daybreak.