Ilene Adar,
Quiet the Storm
(self-produced, 2005)

Ilene Adar's second CD is called Quiet the Storm. It's an apt title for this collection of songs, each of which sails courageously into the restless seas of the human spirit.

In 2002, Adar's First Sound was a promising debut for a singer of considerable talent and insight. Her crystalline voice is matched by her clear-eyed abilities as a songwriter. Her lyrics tend to be spare and poetic and her melodies are simple yet sophisticated and memorable. In the title track she sings "Lovers we make daisy chains/waltzing down the lane/these moments wax and wane/and I wonder ... what would it take to quiet the storm in my soul?"

All of the songs aim high, seeking to make sense of the human condition from a personal yet universal perspective. In general they succeed -- perhaps not because of technical perfection or stylishness but because of careful craftsmanship combined with uncommon honesty.

On the whole, this project has a more bluegrass-inspired feel that her previous album. There's also a nod to reggae ("Blue Love") and straight-ahead contemporary folk ("Flying Pigs"). The polished and tasteful production is handled by Caren Armstrong, who provides rhythm guitar and lovely harmonies and is joined by Robert Powell on electric guitars and pedal steel, Edo Castro on fretless bass, Eliyahu Sills on acoustic bass, James Nash on mandolin, Doug Harman on cello and Suzy Thompson on fiddle.

While Adar's voice reminded me at times of a young Joni Mitchell and at others of Allison Krauss (must be the bluegrass), a more apt comparison may be early Dar Williams. The sweetness and honesty with which Adar shares her life experience reminds me a lot of Williams.

My personal favourite songs on the disc are "Pearls," in which she asks the listener (perhaps herself) "What will you do with these pearls of yours.../Your eyes are diamonds, your songs your kindness, through which your beauty pours/Give them to true love or cast them before junkies, hustlers and whores," "Change" ("Can you turn just one degree in my direction/can you change just a little bit"), "One at a Time" (which makes reference to 9/11) and the title track.

Even though there is a sweetness to Ilene Adar, there's a toughness, too, and there's courage in these songs. Also, there's a sense of optimism and gratitude, which is a welcome breeze in the wake of so many storms.

by Joy McKay
17 September 2005

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