[25 January 2011]
Before Lately‘s beguiling title is the first hint that Louisville, Kentucky’s Cheyenne Marie Mize is an artist intent on recovering the feelings we let slip through the cracks. That title connotes a timing issue—how opportunities arise too early, or how an apology arrives too late. Between these extremes sits the struggle—of love and longing, of possession and loss. Ms. Mize sings this struggle not only like a woman who’s lived it, but like a woman who’s had the words to describe it lodged awkwardly in her throat for years. It brings her cool country-like croon right to your ears, at times a mere whisper that should be a scream, and at other times a loud throaty belt that speaks to something we’d like to keep hushed.
In “Best”, she opens the album with “I tried my hardest / To be what you wanted”, her voice slightly torn at the edges. But she’s not doing tales of woe. Before Lately is a survival kit of song craft—the whispers, silences, breaths, swallows, single word song titles and all. Backed by tiptoeing piano movements, plucking and wailing guitars, and sharp strings, Ms. Mize is fearless in her vulnerability, calmly extending an invitation in “Rest” that could have so easily been rebuffed.
Vocal comparisons to Norah Jones are appropriate, considering the texture and weight of their tones, and they both do the quiet of disquietude better than most. Before Lately is the haunting story you stay up late to read, under the covers with your flashlight, too engrossed to put down, too fascinated by to let go.