Denise Marie








Denise Marie
Blue Tutu
(Little Hummingbird Records)

October 2001

Her debut disc hinted at it -- New Orleans' singer/songbird Denise Marie wouldn't be one to be stylistically confined. Three years later, her sophomore effort is even more adventuresome, and expansive stylistic palette yielding one of the year's most eclectic outings from a once folk-oriented artist. Mood-wise, the feathery soft-voiced soprano strikes many of those too -- like a lazy afternoon hanging out on a porch swing ("The Day is a Dream" or thoughts incurred while cooped up on a drizzling, rainy day ("Sinking Ships").

If the moods seem many, it's because Marie's arrangements sweep across sweet-toned folk ("No Pressure"), swinging gypsy jazz ("It's Crazy") and even crunchy rockers ("Dark Oceans"), all daring combinations that manage to work well. The amorously lush "Sweet Romance" saunters sleekly with Mike West's light, rolling touch on banjo while "How High Can We Climb" is a beautiful, dreamy composition supported by Dave Easley (pedal steel/guitorgan), Hector Gallardo (congas/bongos), James Singleton (upright bass) and Matt Swiler (drums/cajon). The aforementioned a relative regular presence throughout the proceedings as do horn guys Eric Lucero (trumpet) and William Terry (tenor sax). "Hummingbird" opens with Marie's accented picking pattern that subtly unfolds with breathtakingly sung sustained notes and Terry's rich, fluid sax lines. If you hear any tasty guitar leads here, especially the Django Reinhardt-styled "It's Crazy," that's also Marie who's hardly the proverbial folkie three-chord guitarist.

Yet, not all Marie's songs are wine and roses. On "Break The Silence," the organ-horn-heavy arrangement builds mightily to a thunderous climax as Marie pleads for her lover to communicate. Even heavier, is the autobiographical "Fatherless Children" that initially seems jarring with its dreary backdrop, disturbing, wailing vocals and a spoken word medium that addresses the scars left behind by abandoning fathers. "And do we forgive them for dumping us like yesterday's trash?" she questions. Words that need to be said, it's rare when they pack this much impact. Like the rest of this, it's obvious that Marie is not one to hold back. A gutsy, artistic record.

--Dan Willging

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