Album Reviews

Carol Lipnik

Almost Back to Normal

Artist:     Carol Lipnik

Album:     Almost Back to Normal

Label:     Mermaid Alley Music

Release Date:     02/05/2015


Beyond rock and jazz, symphony and opera, New York is home to a cabaret scene that inhabits the middle ground between contemporary and classical music. It’s a broad category that includes Broadway standards, Sinatra tributes, a pinch of Liberace and occasional lounge-singer smarm. There are cabaret acts that stick to the basics of Gershwin and Kander and Ebb alongside shows that cover the music of the Beatles, Petula Clark and Elvis Costello.

Cabaret is primarily a live medium. Most performers draw on familiar songbooks to produce shows rather than albums, but some artists write and release new music that serves as raw material for their live productions. Carol Lipnik belongs solidly among the latter. The Coney Island native has several albums to her credit — her most recent, Almost Back to Normal, was released last year — but her ongoing downtown residency at the Pangea supper club eclipses her recorded music.

Ms. Lipnik is categorized as “Alternative Folk” on iTunes, but “Alternative Alternative” might be more apt. There are hints of Joni Mitchell, but Lipnik is otherwise original in every way. The opening piano notes of “Oh, the Tyranny” on Almost Back to Normal set the mood for the ethereal voice that follows. Carol Lipnik is known for her four-octave range, soaring effortlessly to the highest registers to create an out-of-body tone. Light accompaniment on keyboards and strings keeps the arrangements suitably minimalist. “Honey Pot” and “The Things That Make You Grow” are among the notable compositions on Almost Back to Normal, along with the title track.

Fortunately, Carol Lipnik will never be completely back to normal, but that’s not something any of her fans want to see. Her live shows, equal parts performance art and séance, have become a fixture on the downtown scene, attracting regular patrons who keep coming back for more as well as visitors to New York who have read or heard about her. The backroom performance space at Pangea (Second Avenue between 11th and 12th Streets) provides an intimate experience. Carol Lipnik is currently appearing there Sunday evenings, with Matt Kanelos on piano. Adventurous listeners will be rewarded.

-Lou Montesano

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