Kathy Chiavola, |
From Where I Stand
(My Label, 2000)
From Where I Stand survived a calamity that would have derailed many albums. During the recording sessions fiddler Randy Howard, Chiavola's musical and personal partner, died of cancer. Another musician who appears on this album, bass player Roy Huskey Jr., also died of cancer not long before Howard did.
Chiavola resolved to complete the album and dedicate it as a tribute. Many of the songs concern partings, death and broken plans. What could have been a sorrowful exercise indeed is instead a testament to the power of music in difficult times.
Chiavola's variety of country music is the folky sort that is familiar to fans of Kathy Mattea. Like Mattea, she is adept at selecting good songs to interpret. If you like Mattea's albums Time Passes By or Lonesome Standard Time, save yourself the trouble of reading the rest of this review and just get this album now. Chiavola possesses a strong singing voice with a keening upper range that is suited for bluegrass. That high lonesome tone works particularly nicely on "Last Words," a humorous song in which the dying narrator's biggest challenge is her brother's request: "Could I have all your stuff when you're dead?" Mike Bub of the Del McCoury Band plays the part of the importunate brother.
In addition to Howard (who appears on six of the album's 14 tracks) and Huskey, Chiavola is backed by fine musicians such as Carlos Aonzo, David Grier, Larry Perkins and Brent Truitt. John Cowan contributes a harmony vocal to "The Road to Kingdom Come." The arrangements are acoustic except for the drum-track and synthesizer-backed "I Will Carry On," which concludes the album; it seems an odd coda to the unplugged music preceding it. The song itself is perfectly suited to the album's theme, it is the arrangement that seems out of place.
The songs here range from Kate Wolf's "Across the Great Divide" to the western swing weeper "Goin' Away Party." Most are covers, except for Chiavola's own "Senza Parole," "Cajun Blues" (written with Elizabeth Hill) and "I Will Carry On," which was written with Janey Clewer.
From Where I Stand is an unassuming gem of intelligent music with heart. On this album, celebration stands side by side with mourning. The result is an excellent country album whose theme holds it together and gives it depth.