Karyn Oliver – Cherchez La Femme
This is an all-female showcase though I believe it proves nothing – great musicians are great musicians. And these sparkle on every tune. If it’s an exercise in just producing a special feminine “sound” then Karyn Oliver has succeeded since nothing is too heavy-handed or pompous. It’s all quite balanced with finesse & expertise.
Oliver (vocals/guitars) herself has a smooth delivery that lies somewhere between folk & easy listening with a nod to Joan Osborne, Paula Cole, Jane Oliver (no relation) & Lani Hall. The 11-cut CD “Look For The Woman,” that is Cherchez La Femme (Drops Oct 20-Buxom County Records) is filled with dainty melodies & lounge singing that isn’t peppered with showboating or trite lyrics.
Oliver is careful to keep everything trimmed as she performs with vigor & savvy. Lots of mature songwriting with occasional dips into the retro-songwriting songbook. Yet, it works wonderfully since Karyn has the pipes, the attitude & a group that understands her aims.
“The Game,” is a little grittier but never veers far from the target. It has middle-of-the-road richness & a sultry delivery. You can tell Ms. Oliver is also an entertainer. She knows what intonation is, has good phrasing & paces her tunes expertly. The song would’ve been a good late-career Billie Holiday turn because it has that kind of temerity.
There are moments when I believe Karyn could interpret the late Nanci Griffith successfully. She shares in Griffiths’ emotional expressive nature & web of delicacy. There isn’t anything heavy here, alcohol, drugs, or controversy. These are simply beautiful songs interpreted with an earthy blend of musicianship. Maybe that’s why Ms. Oliver required the element of all-female. It’s more onion skin performance than cardboard. And justifiable since the layers of notes float with jubilance.
As evidenced in “Skeleton,” “Truth” & “All Clear,” Karyn tightens the wires. The band while not wild, maintains an unflinching base that drips dynamics instead of spilling it. The torrent comes plaintively. There’s a gracefulness to her showcase that sweetens the assertiveness. “Pelican,” follows & with this voice, she shows a little more R&R verve. Higher notes, controlled with warm Dixieland brass bellowing & shining. Quite likable. Satisfying. As for the all-woman band – I’d hire them. Yes, I would.
Highlights – “In Galveston,” “The Game,” “Skeleton,” “Pelican,” “Truth,” “Dance With Me,” “All Clear” & Cry Hallelujah.”
Musicians – Carolann Solebello (bass), Cheryl Prashker (drums/percussion), Katherine Etzel (producer/percussion), Allison Tartalia (keyboards/piano), Kate Maguire, Ann Klein & Anne McCue (guitars), Dirje Childs (cello), Alison Scola (clarinet), Lynn Ligammari (sax), Julie Drombosky (trombone), Minerva Johnson (trumpet), Katherine Etzel, Catherine Miles & Karyn Oliver (backing vocals).
Stitched lyric insert included. CD cover color photo courtesy of Stacie Huckeba. CD @ https://www.karynoliver.com/