Friday, June 13, 2008

A Work of Incandescent Beauty

Greetings from sunny Albuquerque, New Mexico, and the most difficult part of the current jaunt: four flights in four days, each of them early in the morning, and each taking me to places that are a little warmer than I might prefer.  Nevertheless, today is an easier day than most: three bookstores in the city visited, and now a little time to catch up on e-mail, drink coffee, and watch the world go by while I, for a moment, stay in one place.

I've been trying to resist buying CDs as I go, mainly because my check-in bag weighs exactly 49.5 lbs at the moment, and I've jammed as much stuff as I can into my carry on luggage without doing myself an injury.  Still, one CD hasn't been far from me since I picked up a promo copy a couple of weeks ago, and the more I listen to it, the more I think that it may well be one of the finest albums released so far this century. 

The album is called To Survive, and it's the work of Joan Wasser, who records under the name Joan as Police Woman.  Wasser was the violinist with Anthony and the Johnsons (and was the late Jeff Buckley's lover).  Her debut album, Real Life, was very fine indeed, but To Survive is an incredible leap forward, reminiscent of the best of Laura Nyro, Joni Mitchell and the cream of the 1970's female singer-songwriters.  From its first song, "Honor Wishes", through the haunting strings and heartbreaking restraint of the title track, to the ambiguities of "To America", the final song, it is almost without flaw; or, rather, what flaws there are are intensely human, and add to the beauty of the work rather than detract from it.  

Quite simply, Wasser's album makes the work of most of her peers seem rather mundane by comparison.  If there is any justice in the world, it will become a huge word-of-mouth success.  I plan to contribute, in my small way, by pressing as many copies of it as possible on friends and strangers.  Buy it.  I'd say that you won't be disappointed, but that would be selling this wonderful album short.  Better to say that your life will be a little richer for having heard it.

This week John read

Six Days of the Condor by James Grady
Lords of the Bow by Conn Iggulden

and listened to 

To Survive by Joan as Police Woman