Marie-Lynn Hammond,
Black & White ... and Shades of Grey
(1990; Vignettes Media, 2000)

Black & White ... and Shades of Grey is another great CD from Marie-Lynn Hammond. At the best the music and the songs are magic, at her very worst they are still good songs. The songs touch a wide range of topics and some of them are quite witty.

As should be, the musicians on the CD deserve credit for the great job they do. They are Marilyn Lerner (keyboards and percussion), Don Benedicton (bass), Greg Black (drums), Greg Lowe (electric guitar and acoustic guitar), Daniel Koulack (banjo and guitar), Ben Mink (violin), Myron Schultz (clarinet), Ray Egan (trombone) and I.B. MacHine (tambourine). The other singers on the CD also add to the wonderful music. Marie-Lynn Hammond's voice is beautiful and full-bodied, and her singing changes in style to fit the song and the music without fail. She also plays the guitar on a couple of the songs.

The CD starts off with "Not Another Benefit," and the title pretty much explains it. It is a delightfully up-tempo song that leave you smiling. The cameo by Nancy White, who apparently has done her share of benefit concerts, is priceless. "Mothers Teach Your Sons" has a bluegrass feel to it and, well, takes a well-aimed shot at men.

The lighter side of things continues in "Science is Wonderful," which looks at one thing science has yet to do. It is hard to pin down the sound on this song, but it is good. Then comes the klezmer-flavoured "Why do I Have This Thing (for Jewish Men)," a look at relationships that never quite work out.

The mood of the songs starts to change with "Eve Gave Adam the Apple." The lyrics are highly charged and while I do not quite always agree with them, they do raise some interesting points. It helps to remember that it is still on the lighter side of things. The music, however, is catchy -- a jazzy anthem if you will.

"Temagami Round" starts off with the sound of the wind blowing across a barren land. It is a haunting round, touching on the importance of the environment. "Sisters and Friends" is a toast to -- you guessed it -- sisters and friends. Again, the music is good. "Pleine Lune" is a poem by Paul Savoie that was put to music and is a graceful look at love.

"Shades of Grey (The Major's Song)" is and is not a ballad, either way it works. When it is sung, it is a ballad telling the story of a meeting between two people; when it is spoken it varies. Parts are the words and thoughts of the actors in the story, parts are comments by the singer.

We return to love in "Nobody Knows What's Happening to Love," which looks at the sadder side of love when it drifts apart. It asks questions without answering them. The music is soft and almost understated, drifting with the lyrics. "Les Deux Amies" is part of the story of two friends, both as children and as adults. There is a quiet melancholy in the music. The CD closes with "Still Not Over You Yet." The lyrics come from the heart of a person who is still not out of love after the other's love is gone. There is a beauty in its sadness, probably because the song is true.

Take the time to listen to Black & White ... and Shades of Grey for it will make you laugh and it will make you cry. If it could only do one or the other it would be worth listening to, that it can do both is all the better.

[ by Paul de Bruijn ]

[ visit the artist's website ]