Chastity Brown – Sing To The Walls
Something different for me. When I was young I admired the warm tones of vocalists like Nina Simone in her calmer moments, Joan Armatrading, Tanita Tikaram, Heather Mullen & Cassandra Wilson. And now, I have discovered Chastity Brown. With a richness in tone, expressive lyrics & stirring melodies she shapes words as she sings.
If she sings something repetitious she injects each repetitive line with sweet intonation, space & holds the notes impeccably. What should be monotonous & cliched never is.
This South Minneapolis singer is the epitome of a singer who uses phrasing wisely. The opening tunes “Wonderment,” & “Back Seat,” simple as those titles are – capture ears with gentle melodic fingers. There’s a perfume to her music.
Recorded in Sweden & Minneapolis the 10-cuts on Sing To The Walls (Drops June 17–Red House) is a wealth of songs accompanied impressively by proficient musicians, but this is a vocalist’s album. Ms. Brown adds all the personality & character.
“Loving the Questions,” is exceptional as well yet it could use less programmed drums. The voice is too natural, warm & succinct for such technological distractions. Closer to Gospel than jazz or blues & she’s not a pop singer. So, more acoustic-based accompaniment should surround this musical spirit. It should accompany her, not embellish her. The song is a beauty.
It would have been better with brushes on real drums. Creativity? Maybe beat on a special toned cardboard box – the attractive beat would be pure, warm, expressive sans treated percussion. If it were a dance song (it isn’t) she could leave the thin-sounding programmed drums.
While Brown (electric guitar/producer/synth/piano/acoustic guitar/drum programming/Fender Rhodes) does not project with the harshness of Billie Holiday or Nina Simone she does possess the ambiance of such a voice. So long as she doesn’t venture too deep into commerciality. Her songs depend on tight arrangements & can be spare at times. It’s not her voice that could fail her but the material.
As of now, she possesses carefully chosen subjects, – no silliness, novelty, or heavy-duty controversy. The voice is too charming to be compromised. “Curiosity,” is a remarkable piece. Crisp drums (Brady Blade), colorful piano (Lukas Johansson, also synth/string arrangements). It has an atmosphere, it gets into a listener’s pores with its emotional notes.
Players — Gunnar Muvemba Lidstrom, Robert Mulrennan & Niklas Krantz (guitars), Greg Schutte (guitar/drums), Joacim Otterbjork, Bernard Bell & Todd Sickafoose (bass), Nathan Knight (upright bass), Lasse England & Chris Gothberg (acoustic guitars), Love Norman & Jason Eskridge (backing vocals), Andy Thompson & James Douglas (string arrangements), Brady Moen, Sharon Van Etten (vocals) & Clifton Harrison (violin/viola).
Sax, trumpet, trombone & harmonica touches next time? This CD is a near-masterpiece. It’s evident Ms. Brown has the expertise to sing anyone’s songbook & leave the compositions sparkling with class.