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Monday, February 20, 2017

Indie review: April Martin's "In the Blink of a Life"



Chris Davis

File under: Countrified Confessional Folk
Reminds me of: Natalie Marchant's Ophelia, Phil Ochs' Rehearsals For Retirement
My faves: Blink of an Eye, Let Me In, One Part Truth, Party's In Full Swing, Looking Back, One Breath
Hear it online: Click here
For fans of:  Roseanne Cash, Mary Chapin Carpenter, Leonard Cohen, Gillian Welch, Carole King, Loretta Lynn
Musicians: April Martin, vocals, guitar, flute. Peter Calo, guitars, backup vocals Chris Marshak, drums. Susan Didrichsen, backup vocal. Norbert Goldberg, percussion. Produced and mixed by Peter Calo. Mastered by Scott Hull.

Quick take: A confessional album that feels like an album, with tracks sequenced based on creating an experience more than exposing the "hits". In the Blink of a Life is the work of a mature songwriter with a lovely silky voice, a mix of melancholia and celebration.

Review:

New York singer/songwriter April Martin's recent album release "In the Blink of a Life" is a journey that starts with the optimism of Blink of an Eye ("It's all about love") and continues with a collection of songs that reflect on life, love, and death.  In "Looking Back" she sings "Spend my days looking back on where I've been", and that's a major theme of the album overall.  There's a sadness underlying many of the songs, particularly in Martin's vocal delivery, and that mood permeates the middle section of the album.  That melancholic mood lifts for the last few songs which are more up-tempo, and "The Party's In Full Swing" is even a little silly, in a welcome way.  Producer Peter Calo seems to be finding his way on a handful of the songs, but when he does the results are gorgeous, particularly when he's wearing his accompanying-guitarist hat. The production keeps the focus on Martin's voice, a good idea because she's a compelling singer.  I do find myself wishing a little more attention had been paid to the percussion track in places, and the almost complete abscence of bass guitar is odd and leaves a somewhat hollow feeling at the centre of some of the songs. 

Bottom line: a solid, rewarding album that is in some ways bigger than the sum of its parts.  Well worth a listen.



From her bio:

April Martin started her professional life as a Ph.D. in clinical psychology and maintains a successful practice in New York City. Though she made up songs in her head from as far back as she can remember, she didn’t begin writing them down until later in life.

Her first album, Pennies in a Jar, was released in 2010, and garnered more than 10,000 fans worldwide on Internet radio. This album, In the Blink of a Life, takes her exploration of the human heart - which is done with tenderness, humor, and passion, to greater depths of reflection and maturity.

About her work, April says "When I was a child in the 1950’s you could get a song sheet for 5 cents at the corner candy store with the lyrics to tunes on the Hit Parade. My dad, whose natural tenor voice was always bursting into song, would give me a nickel each week when the new ones came out. Together we learned songs like “Secret Love”, “How Much Is That Doggie in the Window?”, and “Oh My Pa-Pa.” These were some of the happiest moments of my childhood.

Those songs were my constant companions. I overheard my first grade teacher complaining, “If that child doesn't stop humming I will go crazy.” I hummed the tunes and memorized the words, which spoke life’s truths to my little heart. I knew for a fact that love is a many splendored thing, that Davey Crockett was king of the wild frontier, and that when you load sixteen tons all you get is another day older and deeper in debt. My musical tastes may have broadened, but to this day I’m drawn to the simplicity of a song that makes me laugh or cry or wonder about something that rings deeply true.

Songwriting came to me half a lifetime later, after spending decades immersed in the human condition as a psychologist and a parent of three children. To my surprise I found myself humming tunes I’d never heard before and giving voice to things that welled up in me.

With every song I write I’m grateful to the people who trust me with their vulnerabilities and joys, to my children who made me understand love as never before, and to my dad who brought those wonderful songs into my young world."

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