Marie-Lynn Hammond,
Marie-Lynn Hammond & Vignettes
(1978, 1983; re-released
by Vignettes Media, 1999)

This is two albums re-released on one CD, and either one on its own would have been plenty. (It just would have made for a fairly short CD.) Both Marie-Lynn Hammond and Vignettes are wonderful. In all fairness to both releases, I cannot simply lump the two of them together. So first, her solo release Marie-Lynn Hammond.

There are 19 musicians joining Hammond on her self-titled debut. Notable among them are Doug Bowes (guitars, vocals and more guitars), Chad Irschick (bass and vocals), Jay Alter (drums), John Lang (Fender Rhodes and piano), Bucky Berger (drums and percussion), Jack Grunsky (percussion, vocals and special effects), Brian Langill (piano) and Tony DesMarteaux (electric guitar and vocals). Hammond, who also plays acoustic guitar, has a wonderful soft voice that wraps itself around the base of your skull.

The sound they produce slides around from one style to another. You have the jazz of "Minitoken Sunrose (Nobody Loves You)" to the blues of "Leaving" and the folk sound of "Lights in the Windows." Then you have songs like the "Black Cat, Stephen and the Popcorn Man," which falls somewhere between jazz and folk-rock.

The songs are amazing. First there is the jazzy "Calico Cat," and the tempo of the song fits the title so well that at times you can almost feel the cat stretching out lazily. This is followed by "Maverick Gleam," a subdued love song that starts slowly, switches to a slightly faster tempo and then kicks right back down to where it started. Added to that is the tenderness and the openness of the lyrics, which has the feel of someone reaching out to express a new feeling.

Then of course there is "Minitoken Sunrose (Nobody Loves You)," which is just a joy to listen to. I can't place where I know this song from, but after listening to it I can't quite shake the feeling that I know it from somewhere. If I am wrong on that, well, she does such a wonderful job on it that it should be well known. She also includes a poem by her mother, (written in French, but a translation to English is provided) and both the lyrics and the song are beautiful.

The second half of the CD is her later album, Vignettes.

The musicians surrounding Hammond continue to be excellent. There are 14 different musicians playing at various times, including Marilyn Lerner (piano and synthesizer), Martin Dellar (percussion and drums), Ben Mink (guitars, violins and autoharp), Allan Soberman (vocals and bass), Cameron Hawkins (synthesizer) and Aaron Davis (piano and Moog bass). Hammond's singing continues to be amazing and she plays both the guitar and the acoustic guitar quite well.

The sound however is harder to define. Sometimes it is a slow folk-rock tune, while at other times it is a blending of styles. For example, "La Tete Anglaise, le C'ur Francais" is rockier, while "Flying/Spring of '44" has more of a vague bluesy feel to it. And then there is "Loving and Leaving," a wonderful song with beautiful lyrics, which sounds like an elegant ballroom dance.

The only song that is easy to classify is "La Jeune Mariee," a fun folk song. (If you don't know French well, the speed will eventually make it impossible for you to follow the lyrics, but translations to English are provided for all songs written in French.)

Hammond also continues to put poems by her ancestors to song including another one by her mother, "Le Coffre a Jouets," and one by her grandmother, "Where the Grey Sky Meets the Sea." Both make beautiful songs.

This is another CD to sit back with and enjoy. So take the time to listen to it and see where it takes you.

[ by Paul de Bruijn ]

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