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Reviews: Jayme Kelly Curtis ~ Sugar and Sand|
Posted on Saturday, February 05, 2005 @ 12:32:02 UTC
Artist: Jayme Kelly Curtis
CD: Sugar and Sand
Home: Santa Cruz, California
Style: Contemporary Folk
Quote: "She alchemizes her own stories into songs that are at once bold and dreamy, pristine little gems of great nuance."
By Kevan Breitinger
Jayme Kelly Curtis has guts, no one can deny that. Sugar and Sand is a brave work, a concept album fashioned into a “trilogy in three moods," each quite striking on its own and somewhat distant from the other two. Like I said, guts galore.
A big proponent of “show, don’t tell,” the mantra of a good writer, she wants her songs to be more “painterly than narrative so listeners can connect on a more archetypal level.” To that end, she alchemizes her own stories into songs that are at once bold and dreamy, pristine little gems of great nuance. Immediately Californian, her New Age perspective is impossible to miss. The album title comes from a quote of Hindu mystic Babaji’s: “Everything on the earth is of mixed character, like a mingling of sugar and sand.”
Curtis works this philosophy hard in the title cut, lamenting the confusion of today’s media culture and the chaos it breeds, as well as providing a pithy commentary on Dubya’s integrity in this post-9/11 world. This is one of the three songs offered in the first segment, the folk-rock chapter of the CD. Immediately noticeable is Curtis’ excellent voice quality, crisp enough to lacerate, as well as the top-notch quality of the musicianship. A longtime participant in the Northern California music scene, she has assembled a team of superb players. Violin virtuoso Autumn Hancock blazes brilliantly through these tunes, which are psychedelic in voice if not musicality.
The second chapter showcases Curtis’ love for the blues, and here again the guest artists are a big part of the draw. “Blues with the Boys” works best, slide guitar and harmonica filling out the sweet song nicely. Curtis has written some smart, sexy songs here, though I don’t know that I buy her as a blues-singer. Her distinct voice just has an inherent wholesomeness that doesn’t ring true for me in this genre. But yes, she must love the blues for she sure enough knows how to write ‘em. “Do the Dishes, Too,” the hottest song ever written about housework, is too good to miss: "Do me right all through the night, but do the dishes too."
But it’s in the third portion of the album, dedicated to “Folkloric Jazz,” that Curtis’ powers truly shine, and she is altogether captivating when she’s found her groove. Each of the five songs offered in this segment sparkle with excellence. Curtis seems most in her element in this genre, her phrasing intelligent, her potent imagery emotive and on the mark. Brass player George Demarest augments “Into the Night” perfectly, the trumpet providing a spotless specificity, and pianist Walter Bankovitch is more of the same.
The Middle-Eastern-tinged “Shore of Wakefulness” is another flawless dance between Demarest’s flugelhorns and Curtis’ ethereal voice. The instrumentation of “Pretty Eye” is pure delight, Radim Zenkl’s immaculate mandolin meshing beautifully with the didgeridoo and the shimmering Curtis. She may shine most gloriously in the lush “Tall Poppies,” but “From a Simple Joy” wins for sheer exhilaration as it sweetly declares the splendors of love among the strings. I think Curtis may have gone and created her own genre, and she owns it masterfully. Just beauteous ...
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