Ithaca Blog

Monday, January 23, 2012

CD By Mary Lorson, Among the Greats

There's a roster of musicians comprising the great, not unified by style nor even proficiency, but with the simple quality that as soon as you hear them, you know it's them.

Sinatra, Miles Davis, Billie Holiday, T. Monk, Muddy Waters:  you get the idea.

I remember once pulling my car off the road, about 20 years ago, to make sure I caught the name of this song on the radio with beautiful slide guitar that sounded so much like George Harrison. The song was "Handle With Care" and of course it was George Harrison.

You'll have your own list. May I suggest you listen to Mary Lorson ( Ithaca's own) and see if you don't add her to it, sooner rather than later.

Ms. Lorson has a new CD, with her new band the Soubrettes, "Burn Baby Burn," which is released for radio play this week, after first release in 2011, to glowing reviews. (The last Sunday New York Times of 2011 named it as a recording not to miss from the year.)

Ms. Lorson's singularity includes her singing, playing (guitar and piano, primarily), and songwriting, which are all of a piece, a trifecta that not many achieve (Sinatra doesn't play or write; Monk doesn't sing).

The songs are mostly piano-based, which generally rules out folkiness, but Ms. Lorson rules it in, composing also for banjo, tenor guitar, and standup bass. The rhythms are direct, with a modest backbeat, but are mostly propelled by Ms. Lorson's vocals, and the meters of her lyrics. This is the strongest part of the hey-that's-Mary Lorson factor. Her singing sounds like her lyrics, her lyrics sound like her songs, her songs sound like her singing.

Ms. Lorson is a just-right singer: never attempting to overpower the notes, but never afraid to meet and define them. Her voice is understated in its beauty. Her diction is perfect but never fussy.

The CD's last song, the only one not written by Ms. Lorson, is "I Don't Care," a vaudeville tune popularized by Eva Tanguay, a favorite of Ms. Lorson's. The final words are "If I'm never successful, it won't be stressful, 'cause I don't care." We don't know how ironically to take this, which is probably the idea, but we think Ms. Lorson will be as successful as she wishes with the strength of this release.

Steve Burke
for Ithaca NY Blog

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