There is a bit of Joni Mitchell in Gabrielle Gewirtz. And Tish Hinojosa, and Sandy Denny, and Kate Bush, and a hundred other female singer/songwriters I could name, and the first time I heard "Wide," it seemed to matter. Rule number three in the Critic's Handbook is, after all, compare fairly, right behind spell the names right and spell your name right, and I began listening to it with that in mind. But a strange thing happened between the first and the 100th play: Gabrielle became the yardstick. Somehow, without my realizing it, her songs and her voice and the production and musicianship of "Wide" altered my perception and became that to which others need be compared. And no wonder. It is an independently produced gem.
It is also no fluke. Gabrielle's background in the arts is well-documented, from her choral work in high school to her inclusion on albums recorded by renowned cantor Paul Zim. Blooze Junction, a popular New York blues and R&B cover band, put her out front in 1996. By 1998, the urge to perform her own music took over and the songwriting began in earnest. In 2000, she had enough to self-produce her first studio CD, "Dreamtown," a fine folky approach to music from the Gabrielle sphere. After her 2002 EP, "Live and On Her Own," she tied up with two artists who would change her style and direction: Clancy (one name, I guess, like Cher) and Nicholas D'Amato.
Clancy had been spending time in NYC working with the likes of Billy Porter and Daniella Cotton, mainly on percussion, and spending time in various studios. D'Amato, meanwhile, was honing a proficiency on the bass with the likes of Poppa Chubby and Spiraling (along with working on his own solo project). They became a musical three musketeers and have been working together since. In June of '04, they entered the studio to begin work on what would become "Wide." By the middle of '05, the CD was on the street and available for purchase.
The fact is that music this good does not grow in a petri dish. From the first note of "Close" to the last note of "My Love", it is obvious that Gabrielle, Clancy and D'Amato are on the same page. Styles overlap everywhere, but pop overrides it all. Upbeat and flowing tracks like "Close," "Wide," and "Neptune" give way to the spacey and ethereal "No Sign No Sound" to the soft ballad "Melina" as if part of a larger major work, and it only gets better from there. The light, jazzy feel of "I Know You Know" hearkens back to the mid-Steely Dan style of rock and prefaces a trio of exceptional ballads ("I See Clearly," "Tell Me," and "Whose Life"). One might think that including Cyndi Lauper and Rob Hyman's "Time After Time" next would be a bit of a mistake, but it works and sets up the supposed closer, "Nightly," beautifully. Slow and haunting, "Nightly" is as much of a lullaby as there is here. A perfect showcase for Gabrielle's sensitive side. A bonus track follows after a few seconds' break and a Lydia Pense-like jazz/blues piece, "My Love", closes the show, offsetting the sometimes complicated and always excellent production with light, slow and unpretentious bar blues.
The high points of the album are many. Clancy's production is masterful, as is his percussion work. D'Amato sets himself up as one of only a few bass players to watch (he has the ability to lay out rolling lines with a touch that takes a song over the top). Add to them a handful of excellent sidemen and even a string quartet (perfect for those floating ballads) and you have a CD worth hearing. Again and again and again. I have heard it a good hundred times and am still fascinated with the musical effects hidden beneath the layers. Soon, I am sure I will spring for the bucks to purchase "Dreamtown" (I was hoping my friend would forget that I'd borrowed it) and maybe even "Live and On Her Own." Why not? Gabrielle is very talented. Very. And in tandem with Clancy and Nick D'Amato, she is a force. May the force be with you.
Wide is available from CDbaby. Stop by and sample a song or two.
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THE GRIP WEEDS/Updated '60s-style psych/pop of the best variety... a great album!
(Perry Jordan &) HEARTSFIELD/Guitars a-Blazin' Country Rock!
GREG LASWELL/Taking One For the Cause
JENN LINDSAY/This Is Your Brain On Power Pop
MAGGI, PIERCE & E.J./Dog Bites Band! (Phenomenal!!)
AUDREY MARTELL/Great Indie R&B, Pop--- Five Stars!
BILL PILLMORE/Former Cowboy Returns To the Studio
JESS PILLMORE/Dancing On the Edge
EMILY WELLS/And the Yaks Laughed (Awe-Inspiring!)
STEVE YOUNG/A Fortuitous Return To the Past
Gems from Rock's past:
SETTING THE RECORD(s) STRAIGHT/Correcting Injustices of Rock's Past
SCOTT BOYER & THE DECOYS/All My Friends
CARGOE/Tulsa To Memphis
CHRISTIAN ROCK/The Early Years
Ardent's JOHN FRY/A 1975 Interview
NOTARY SOJAC/A '70s Pacific Northwest Legend
WHITE ELEPHANT/Jazz Had Hippies, Too!!!
STEVE YOUNG/Rock Alt. & Nails
More indies and rock history here.