Jamie Anderson,
A Promise of Light
(Tsunami, 2005)

A Promise of Light is Jamie Anderson's seventh recording and with her easy mix of humorous and serious themes, and the variety of styles and tempos, it isn't hard to see where her musical longevity has come from.

Anderson's voice is strong, yet gentle, and she uses it magnificently to express a wide range of emotions. She needs these vocal skills considering the emotional ground she covers in her songs. The arrangements are thoughtfully done and accentuate the tone of the lyrics. The album has a subtle spirituality about it, but it is calming and just enough to make one pause and think. Her lyrics are evocative and well written, adding to the pleasure of the album.

Beginning the CD, the sublimely beautiful "Faith" is a song of hope and peace in an age filled with fear and hatred. Following this is a fantastic song that many of us can identify with. "A Little Chocolate" extols the virtues of the tasty treat as easier than a relationship and cheaper than crack. How can you not like a song like that? "Ain't nothing wrong with me/A Little Chocolate won't cure." Never a truer word was sung.

Moving on to far more serious material, "Sister" deals with retribution for childhood abuse, while "Beautiful" tells the story of a friend who has had her stomach stapled for cosmetic reasons. Anderson treats both topics with the respect they deserve. "Ann Lee" is a touching epitaph to the founder of the Shaker religion and "Grace" describes a summer teenage awakening.

On the other hand, Anderson definitely has a sense of humour! She is very conscientious about keeping the serious and humorous separate, never making light of a heavy subject. "Your Mama Scares Me" is definitely not dealing with a heavy topic, however, and so she goes to town with the hilarity, describing what is probably the most terrifying mother-in-law in the world. "Felon" tells of her own (probably not that amusing at the time) run-in with the law in North Carolina. She doesn't have very nice things to say about them after she was branded a criminal for speeding, but she does paint quite the picture of the scary scary folksinger in her Toyota. The song is one of those events that make a funny story in retrospect.

Anderson has also included one traditional song, "Polly Vaughn," done beautifully as a lament with fiddle and guitar. The only instrumental track, "Emily," is such due to the cat not having completed the lyrics on time. (See? Very funny lady!)

My only small complaint about the album is the asides Anderson puts into the humorous songs. They get very old very quickly, making it much more difficult to leave the CD on repeat.

Despite this, however, I can quite happily leave Anderson's wonderfully written and performed album playing for hours at a time. Her lovely voice combined with lyrics you want to listen to make this album a worthwhile addition to any collection.

by Jean Emma Price
29 October 2005

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