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CD Review: Starr Shines with Soulful Voice

Emotive Fifth Album Highlights a Style All Her Own

By Jillian Berry
ASSOCIATE ARTS EDITOR

The Sound of You and Me

Garrison Starr

Vanguard Records

Released March 13, 2006

Have you ever heard a song that just makes you want to cry and you don’t know why? If after having shed those tears, you feel a great relief, you’ll know what I mean when I say that Garrison Starr’s fifth album, “The Sound of You & Me,” is an hour-long version of one of those songs.

Starr was born in Mississippi, moved to Los Angeles for a few years, and now resides in Memphis. “Sound” is unique, with pop, folk, country, blues, and bluegrass inspirations blending to form eleven moving songs. Her distinctive voice can be at once pure and intensely soulful, or mature and raspy. I could try to compare her sound to that of some other musician, but I think she is the only one of her kind.

When I first listened to the CD, the songs blended together, and I was afraid none were very memorable. Once I listened again, however, I realized just how distinct most of the songs really are. I am not sure how her songs can be so similar yet so different at the same time, but she has obviously found her voice.

The CD starts with “Pendulum,” which begins, “Pendulum / Are you lonely on the run?” As with this song, much of the record explores the loneliness of life and the pains of past loves.

While most songs center on this theme, a few stand out. In “Sing It Like A Victim,” she sings “tighten up your jar / let the tears roll down from your eyes” and think about all the hurt that someone has caused so that you can move forward. This song is particularly moving, as most of it is sung as if she is reading poetry while the band is there to simply match the beat of her words. As a result, every line is clear and powerful. The strength of the lyrics contrasts with the high and pure voice in the singing so that the song does not become overwhelming.

Another great song is “We Were Just Boys and Girls.” This is the last song on the CD, and it sounds like a lullaby. It’s fitting as the closing piece; Starr sings “Before we were stained / we were just boys … and girls.” Starr explores the past with all its hardships, but now that she has sung of her pain, she can finally move on and go to sleep.

Other notable songs are “Pretending” and “Big Enough.” Both display the intensity of her vocals, and the power of her lyrics. In fact, “Big Enough” would be nearly perfect except that she switches from an emotional piece to a rock solo — the rock part isn’t bad, but it doesn’t fit with the song. In addition, “Beautiful in Los Angeles” and “No Man’s Land” prove that she can also create songs with faster, pop tempos.

While all of these songs have emotive lyrics, this is not a record full of sappy ballads. Instead, Starr appears to be commenting on her past so that she can move forward unhindered. Just as you will feel better for having cried with the song, she has freed herself from the past hurt. Moreover, her voice is capable of carrying a note long enough that she does not need to restrict her lyrics to short couplets, but instead can express her feelings with more complex and descriptive lyrics.

Another aspect of the CD that adds to its appeal is the editing and sound mixing. Not only are the songs ordered perfectly to tell Starr’s story, they also have a raw quality not often heard in records today. Some notes may not be perfect, but they convey an intensity that would severely reduce the quality of the CD if removed. In addition, you get the feeling that nothing has been synthesized, and that if you saw her live, she would sing at the same level as she does on the record.

This CD is a great one that will withstand the test of time. I had never heard of Starr before writing this review, but I am so glad I have found her. This is a CD that I will certainly listen to many times over.