[7 April 2009]
McClatchy-Tribune News Service (MCT)
Folk-rock artist Melissa Ferrick has had it with partial measures and half-hearted commitments.
She is all in, though, when it comes to self-reflection - a perspective that glows with brilliant force on her latest effort, “Goodbye Youth” (Right on Records).
Ferrick’s music always exhibits a strong personal touch. But on “Goodbye Youth,” she delivers her most intimate material to date.
“I enjoy the fact that I wrote songs that were more mellow, where I was able to sing a more relaxed way,” said Ferrick. “I don’t think about what I writing. I don’t think about hooks. I don’t even really think about the one person. ... It’s what I need to get out.”
In the wake of her richly layered “In the Eyes of Strangers” in 2006, “Goodbye Youth” takes a turn toward a more elemental sound that relies on only her acoustic guitar and voice. The album’s numbers began to take shape in late 2007 while she was on tour with folk songstress Ani DiFranco, and during a rough patch in her private life.
“I think that October I had a breakup, too,” said Ferrick. “There was that time period that I was writing in October, November and December, which is really when the bulk of these songs were written. I was living alone, recuperating kind of, but also feeling like I had really made the right decisions. There was also some validity inside myself, like, this is really where I need to be right now. ... I did nothing but try to make this record at home.”
From the tender, yet playful opener, “Heart Beat,” to the reaffirming closer, “John’s Field,” “Goodbye Youth” flows at a graceful, varied pace. The title track blazes with an embracing energy that conveys a liberating sense of moving forward with life. “Glycerine,” a distinctive interpretation cover of Bush’s 1994 hit, dials back the vibe a bit, while “Hypocrite” serves up a melodic meditation about projecting a false persona.
Another tune, “I’m Going to Break Your Heart,” features a more edgy tone that draws its inspiration from a unique source.
“I knew, after I wrote that song that, melodically and subject wise, it was almost an arrogant statement,” said the singer-songwriter. “But that was really because of Ryan Adams. It was really inspired by listening to him. He has lyrics that you just think, ‘God, that guy’s a bastard.’ And I love him.”
Deeper into the play list, “House on Fire” sizzles with tenacious vitality, and provides a take on unconditional love, and having the courage to say something that someone close may not want to hear. The first song Ferrick wrote for the album, “Real,” expresses a desire to reconnect with the clarity of life. “John’s Field” wraps up the record, and acts as a summation of the introspective enlightenment that takes place over the course of the 11-song journey.
After prepping material at her home in Massachusetts, Ferrick laid down “Goodbye Youth” in an eight-hour session with producer Scott Norton at Headgear Recording in Brooklyn, New York.
“He (Norton) had everything already set up,” said Ferrick. “All the microphones were already up and warm. So really, I just walked in.”
She also altered her recording approach during the session.
“I did two things differently,” said Ferrick. “One was I didn’t lean on the direct input, which I do when I play live ... And the other thing I did, which I’d never done before when making records, is I didn’t wear headphones.”
Skipping the headphones allowed Ferrick to hear herself sing more naturally, and produce a sound truer to her dynamic stage performances.
Since it debuted last fall, “Goodbye Youth” has been only available on iTunes or at Ferrick’s gigs. In June, Ferrick will re-release the album through a distributor for retail, with expanded mixes of selected songs, including “Heart Beat” and “Hypocrite.”
Initially signed by Atlantic Records in 1993, Ferrick has developed a solid niche long since as an indie artist with her own label. Yet a hit single has eluded her thus far. But that’s hardly due to a shortage of engaging material. Quite the contrary, she has created some of her best music in recent years.
If anything, she has suffered from inopportune album-release timing. Still, she remains optimistic.
“I feel very capable of running my own label and just putting out my own records. ... All you need is one song on ‘Gray’s Anatomy.’”
MELISSA FERRICK TOUR DATES
April 8: Belly Up Tavern, Solano Beach, Calif.
April 9: The Roxy Theatre, West Hollywood, Calif.
April 10: SoHo, Santa Barbara, Calif.
April 11: Mystic Theatre, Petaluma, Calif.
April 12: Great American Music Hall, San Francisco
April 30: Orpheum Theater, Madison, Wis.
May 15: WOW Hall, Eugene, Ore.
May 22-24: Art House, Provincetown, Mass.
June 4: Watercolor Cafe, Larchmont, N.Y.
June 5: Maxwell’s Hoboken, N.J.
June 6: Highline Ballroom, New York
June 8: World Cafe Live, Philadelphia
June 12: 9:30 Club, Washington, D.C.
June 19: Columbus Pride, Columbus, Ohio
June 20: Cleveland Pride, Cleveland, Ohio
July 2: Castle Hill, Ipswich, Mass.
Aug. 1: Lowell Summer Concert Series, Lowell, Mass.
Aug. 6-9: Womyn’s Music Festival, Hart, Mich.