Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Carrie Elkin -- Call It My Garden

Call It My Garden
Red House

Earlier this week, I responded to the Penguin Eggs critic’s poll for 2010 in which I listed my top 10 CDs of last year and my top three new discoveries among all the artists I heard for the first time over the course of the year. Although the year is still relatively new, I’m reasonably sure that Carrie Elkin will be among the top new discoveries that I list in the 2011 poll and it wouldn’t surprise me either if Call It My Garden made the top 10 album list.

Although Call It My Garden was my introduction to Carrie, the Texas-based singer-songwriter has been around for a while and has a number of earlier CDs to her credit. She is a mature artist who has obviously developed her song-craft and performance styles.

The album, which has the feeling of off-the-floor spontaneity in its music-making that I really appreciate, opens with “Jesse Likes Bird,” a joyous, anthemic tribute to a seemingly still-innocent spirit. About two-thirds of the way through the track, the song turns into an instrumental bluegrass romp that’s about as joyous as the song itself.

As much as I like the joy I hear in the opening track, it is Carrie’s sadder and quieter songs that really slay me. Among the most stunning is “Dear Sam,” a song-letter-tribute written for singer-songwriter Sam Baker who was severely injured in a 1986 terrorist attack in Peru. The song is a stark reminder of how trivial day-to-day troubles can be in comparison to what some people have experienced. Another is “Landeth By Sea,” an impressionistic portrait of a disintegrating love relationship.

Among the other highlights on the album are “St. Louis,” in which a conversation with a seatmate on a plane helps to put life and love into perspective; “Shots Rang Out,” an observation of a woman in a desperate situation; and “Berlin,” a celebration of individual resiliency.

Carrie Elkin’s songs are layered in meaning and seem to reveal more each time I’ve listened to the album – especially when following the lyrics as posted on her website.

--Mike Regenstreif

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