Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Sky Cries Mary - "Small Town" CD

Rewinding to the mid-1990's, Seattle. Musically, the 'boom' of post-flannel rock bands is in full swing. Bands both unconventional and uncommercial (Melvins, anyone?) are being signed to major labels and getting videos placed on MTV.

Fronted by the lovely earthy vocalist/painter Anisa Romero, and co-fronted by conceptualist and visual artist husband Roderick Romero, Seattle's Sky Cries Mary created spacious and jammy psychedelic space-rock with a beautiful ambient world vibe, and heavenly dual male/female vocal interplay. No 'grunge' here, thanks. The group even experimented with electronic and hip-hop music around the edges of their forward-thinking sound, and this connection and interest led to some fine remixes as well as Anisa's collaborations with Seattle ambient composer Jeff Greinke as Hana.

Sky Cries Mary's unique and accessable sounds didn't find their 'commercial' audience, though, as their doomed but lovely 1997 release on Warner, 'Moonbathing On Sleeping Leaves', was effectively the end of the band (save for a collection of remixes and B-sides released a year or two later).

They split for some years, only to re-group to release an EP and a live recording (this time on their own personal label) in the early 2000's. 'Small Town' is the first full-length studio release from the band in 10 years, and it picks up amicably where 'Moonbathing' left off. The opening title track is a beautifully understated pop song that reaffirms that SCM are back, and they are more mature, melodic, and developed than before. Some would call this more 'commercial', and that could be another way of putting it. Nonetheless, this is Sky Cries Mary through and through. Old fans will not be let down, and hopefully some new ones will come aboard.

Catchy tunes are everywhere on 'Small Town', and the combination of Anisa's soaring, ethereal vocals and Roderick's rougher counterpoint provide an enveloping and balanced presence. 'You Are' is another transcendent pop-love-song that could find itself some radio play, even. 'Heart Above' is a sweet little vocal track by Anisa that adds mood and depth in-between songs, while the whimsical sound-poetry of Roderick's 'Land Of All' drops in some exotic vibes. A joyous release deserving of your ears. (Hoodooh Music)

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