Album Reviews

Gabrielle Louise

If the Static Clears

Artist:     Gabrielle Louise

Album:     If the Static Clears

Label:     Sandalwood Records

Release Date:     09/30/2016


Viewing the cover photo of the singer/songwriter and guitarist Gabrielle Louise in her elegant, angelic, contemplative pose, you immediately know that the music will be ethereal, provocative and rather soothing. And, as the album unfolds, those qualities become audibly clear. Some have likened her to Joni Mitchell for her literate lyrics, and I find her voice akin to an ethereal, early Nanci Griffith. Musically, the album has elements of folk, bluegrass and jazz. You might not guess from the layers of instruments and the rich background harmonies that the album was recorded in live studio sessions. “Almost everything you hear just happened in the studio,” Louise says. “I really love performances, as they happen. Because it creates a musical sound that is akin to handwriting as opposed to typography. It’s got some really specific character in it. It’s going to look and sound like me as human being, flaws and all.”

Louise is a poet, prose writer and experienced orator. Knowing that, it comes as no surprise that these songs are derived from interesting sources. Summers spent in Buenos Aires are recalled in “Someone Else’s Life,”  while rather unusually “The Graveyard Ballad” finds the artist collaborating with a physicist, mirroring the patterns of a 13-foot pendulum wave. The intriguing, passionate love affair of Mexican artists Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera are portrayed in the haunting “No Moon at All.” Consider these lyrics:

“Come down! Come down!” Frida cried at the scaffold
“Come to the ground from your painted chapels!”
Some said their love was a dove and a bullfrog
A girl so fair shouldn’t care for an old dog
But without him the night wore a dark cloak
And in despair all the hours of the clock broke —
No Moon at All.”

Just when you think some of this is just a bit too esoteric, she revels us with “Another Round on Me,” as sophisticated as any drinking song ever recorded. That and “Waiting to Give” have a sing-along quality, making them perhaps the most accessible songs on the album.

Artists that are this talented often have interesting life stories, and she is no exception. Currently based in Colorado, Louise originally hails from Maine as the daughter of two traveling musicians. She attended 12 different schools before graduating high school. “They carted us around in an Airstream with wonderful rainbow curtains and all kinds of 1970s “Save the Bears” and “Save the Forests” pins all over the place,” she recalls. When she was 12, her father was playing guitar for Michael Martin Murphey, but her mom and dad also performed as a duos named Los Dos and Mother Gabrielle. “My parents had hopes that I would become a performer – they chose my name as a stage name. So I didn’t have much choice.”

Louise studied at Michigan’s acclaimed Interlochen Center for the Arts and then studied songwriting at the Berklee School of Music in Boston. It was there that she began touring as a solo artist. She has released a few independent albums, but gained some notice with 2013’s The Bird in My Chest, which contains her lyrics, short stories and poems. Much of it is reflective of one her greatest influences, Joni Mitchell. She relates this, “A fan once told Joni Mitchell, “Girl, you make me see pictures in my head.” And that’s something I aspire toward as a songwriter, to try and help my audience see imagery to see tiny little movies. Joni Mitchell was a master of that.” I’m not sure Louise is quite there yet, but her attempt is admirable, and the listening is both challenging and enjoyable.

– Jim Hynes

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