Sloan Wainwright

Sloan Wainwright

(WBG 23)

Waterbug Records
P. O. Box 6605
Evanston, IL 60204

A review written for the Folk & Acoustic Music Exchange
by Kyle Rudgers
(kyler@tiac.net)

There is a stylized sun printed underneath the lyrics in the liner notes of Sloan Wainwright's self-titled CD. The symbolism of this soon becomes clear. In a musical genre often accused of dwelling upon the negative, Sloan Wainwright turns expectations upside down. There is a running theme of self-affirmation and faith which can soothe all souls, even -or particularly- those who may seem beyond soothing.

"Hey Girl" sets up the rest of the album. It's a song told by someone who has "been there" in relationships: "Hey Girl/I know what you're going through/Hey Girl/I have befriended ugly truths," Wainwright sings. But instead of going for the obvious- a savage, anti-male diatribe, perhaps, or a certain sense of older-and-wiser self-righteousness -Wainwright chooses instead to be sincere and comforting: "Your tears are not wasted. . ./He used the heart of a real woman/Hey Girl/You deserve respect from any man."

This theme of hopefulness and determined belief in oneself occurs often in Wainwright's music, from her original song "Our Love" to the soulful blast of "Stand," a song written by Sylvester Stewart of Sly and the Family Stone. "Steal My Thunder," a song about someone ending an emotionally destructive relationship, says it best: "I'm getting ready to give up reacting this way with plenty of practice and prayer, with willingness and faith./All that I am and do returns to me./What you think and feel and say/cannot steal my thunder away."

There is an equally powerful theme in the album of belief in something bigger than one's self. "I will sing to the masterpiece, to the painter up on high," the singer says in the song "Without." But this song also recounts the story a woman who will do things her own way, regardless of what people think. My personal favorite track is "Unseen Guide," the chorus of which even melts my cold cynicism:
Push the door
Open into the darkness
I gather myself to rest
In the darkness
Push the door
Open into the darkness
In the darkness I will find
My unseen guide

What that unseen guide is up to the listener. But Wainwright leaves no doubt that it's there for all of us, whatever it is.

Sloan Wainwright's principal instrument is the piano, and she plays it beautifully. On the full band numbers, she is backed by several outstanding musicians. Of particular note are Greg Burrows, whose percussion often acts like a heartbeat, driving a song without being overwhelming; guitarist Steve Murphy, who adds a wonderful layer of sound both acoustically and electrically; and vocalist Patty Keane, who provides some of the most beautiful vocal harmonies you'll ever hear. Just listen to a song like "On a Windy Day" and try to deny that Sloan and her piano are accompanied by an angel. The album was recorded live in the studio, and it sounds polished without the slickness of multiple mixes and overdubs.

But when you get right down to it, the best instrument on the album is Wainwright's deep, rich alto voice. Play the album and let it relax your mind while her voice takes your heart to the sun. Trust me, you'll be better for the trip.

Track listing:

Edited by Kerry Dexter
(riosur@aol.com)

Copyright 1997, Peterborough Folk Music Society.
This review may be reprinted with prior permission and attribution.

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