A review written for the Folk & Acoustic Music Exchange
If you were dating Lisa McCormick, and she sat you down to "Talk About the Relationship," it would not necessarily be an ordeal. In fact, you both might have a good laugh, albeit a rueful one. Judging from her songs, McCormick is less likely to get angst-ridden about love, and more likely to view it all with a sharply sardonic sense of humor, from the first heart-stopping glance and breezy come-on line, to the whole histrionic history of disappointments, regrets, tenderness and longing. On Sacred, McCormick's second full-length CD, she explores all these aspects of love, and as one song suggests, no matter what kind of mess she finds, she'll still "call it beautiful." |
Perhaps appropriately, McCormick begins the CD with a kind of shopping list for the perfect lover:
According to McCormick, sometimes attraction is all in the mind, and you can tell when someone is projecting their ideals onto you: "He doesn't know me from Adam / But he's acting like I'm Eve . . . / He invents me to be what he'll see / When he opens his eyes / He invents me to play and to say / Everything right." Nonetheless, knowing it's a head thing rarely keeps your emotions from taking over, and then you may wish that your increasingly significant other would give you an excuse to dump him/her: "Do something stupid / So I can get you off my mind . . . / I can't afford to want you / The way that I do."
Some folks may want to take a kind of passive-aggressive tactic to short circuit an affair gone wrong: "I was gonna tell you how much you look like my favorite movie star / I was gonna tell you how cool and sexy and savoir faire you are / I was gonna pick up the check at the end of the meal . . . / I was gonna tell you how I really feel / But I forgot." Then again, others take a more direct approach: "You can claim I'm insane / You can blame where you came from / But 29 reasons have led me to here . . . / Gonna waltz out your, waltz out your door."
But when love works, then it remains strong and enduring despite the day-to-day problems. The songs on Sacred that come closest to love songs are about just such long-term relationships, solid and rich: "There's a reason why the vintage wine / Years since it was on the vine / Is rare in its delectability / This is the love you were talking about / When you said . . . / Grow old with me." Then, every little moment can be magical, and even a brief separation can feel exquisite in its bittersweetness: "I will not wake up in your bed / I am not even in your time zone / But I keep hearing how you said / We are under the same moon."
When McCormick isn't exploring relationships, her songs on Sacred take a more philosophical bent. The title track, which discusses ways of experiencing and honoring the Divine, asks a lot of good questions and then, wisely, is content with not knowing the answers:
Another such tune is Get Out of Jail Free, a rumination inspired by a game of Monopoly: "If you could take back / One moment of your life / What would it be? / I think every baby / Should get one token / To spend as they like / To get out of jail free."
Rounding out the set are some pure pop tunes that show off McCormick's whimsy. Jersey Shoretown Bar" vividly evokes the salt air and stale beer of a juke joint in the Springsteen State, while Purgatory Cafe takes a finger-snapping trip to that "little place kinda in-between" in the afterlife, where "they got deviled ham sandwiches, angel food cake, and hot black coffee," and where McCormick shows off some bebopping vocal pyrotechnics.
The decision to record "live in the studio," with little or no over-dubbing, makes for a production that's not quite as slick as McCormick's first recording (the Jonathan Edwards- produced Right Now), but certainly does sound more playful and spontaneous. Throughout, the back-up band performs with spirit and enthusiasm; of particular note are John Platania's tasty, downright sexy electric guitar, T-Bone Wolk's delicate accordion and mandolin, and Mark Murphy's evocative cello. As you can tell from this mix of instruments, the music ranges from rhythm-and-blues to ballad to full-tilt rock. McCormick's voice amply accommodates each mood shift, sometimes sounding as gutsy as Ella, sometimes as breathy as a latter-day Tori Amos, and always as confident, wry, and emotive as only Lisa McCormick can be. Confidence, humor, and a little emotion - the sort of combination anyone needs to tackle love and life nowadays.