Flowers and Grass
When I first moved to Atlanta from Asheville I somehow managed to find a Facebook listing for a show in a small club featuring Newman. It’s still one of the most memorable intimate shows I have attended in Atlanta. She’s still recording and just released Flowers and Grass. As a creative, I never like boxing other creative when doing so is narrow-minded and limiting. For those that care about such things, Flowers and Grass is all over the place.
“Changes” could fairly be placed in the pop-rock neo-soul category, but what is that to you? The song rocks, expresses pain with subdued, sometimes jagged, and soaring strings, and Newman’s voice hugs, sings, laments, and rips your heart out. It may sound like some song on the radio, but not any commercial mainstream mediocrity that you might be used to. You’ll have to go left and go further left to college radio or the Internet (perhaps www/radiocasbah.com when I manage to revive it)
Now “Flowers and Grass” is something else. The mood recalls timeless soaring and fun vocal jazz anywhere from the 1940s to the 2000s. Remember what I said about genreless categorization? In spite of that, this song gives me visions of a colourized Josephine Baker in a music video, only Newman is charming and moving from past to present, layer upon layer, scene by scene. This may be my favorite. “My Fault” is only Blues by association, but the instrumentation here is so sparse, allowing Newman’s voice to shine in front, regretting past mistakes. She lightly scats along with the instruments, wavering as they cover her background and join her front and center but always caressing her voice, allowing her to soar as she reflects, grows, and evolves.
Not to be outdone, “Unexpectedly” sneaks in and surprises as a relaxed electronica dance number. If I learned and practiced hard enough, I suppose I could thrust some tango moves with a willing partner. Newman, in spite of the lyrics, always seems to be displaying a coy beautiful smile as she asks, “Why didn’t you call me?” The instrumentation throughout this album is just wonderful to me. There is this subtle wall of sound that surrounds and caresses Newman but never overpowers her voice. In music production, locally as well as in the mainstream, this is a little rare.
I could keep talking about the subtleties of each track on Newman’s latest, but that would ruin the surprise for all of you. It may be best to visit her Facebook page and find out where she’s playing next and just get a copy for yourself. I don’t think you’ll regret it.
8 May 2016