Gina Forsyth,
You Are Here
(Waterbug, 2001)

Gina Forsyth is a gifted songwriter with a passionate and honest voice. Her first CD, You Are Here, has already received considerable folk radio airplay and I hope and predict she'll continue to find a wide audience.

Her songs are simple, strong, insightful and original. She's a master songwriter, with a great ear for melody and an enviable way with words. Forsyth's songs, and her ability to perform them, are so strong they would have stood up just fine with just her singing and accompanying herself on guitar. However on You Are Here, Forsyth is supported by an impressive array of musicians -- 19 of them, which is a huge number for a debut album by a young folksinger.

The album was co-produced by Forsyth and Andrew Calhoun, and was recorded in Chicago and New Orleans, where Forsyth has lived since 1983. It consists of 12 of Forsyth's original songs, plus Mike West's "Don't Move Back (With Your Mother)," a traditional Cajun fiddle tune and a rural church hymn. Forsyth's style has been described as a blend of traditional Southern roots music with a contemporary lyrical style.

An accomplished musician, Forsythe studied classical and jazz violin and has toured with Cajun acts Mamou and Bruce Daigrepont. Although the Cajun influence is present here, and Forsythe is a wonderful traditional player with a voice that suits the traditional songs, for me the contemporary material was the freshest and most enjoyable element of the album. In particular, the first two songs, "You Are Here" and "Everywhere I Am," are excellent. With catchy melodies and smart, economically-written lyrics, these radio-length crowd-pleasers are sure to turn many ears in Forsyth's direction. "Everywhere I Am" is beautifully arranged with a mix of folkie and pop elements (lots of mandolin and Hammond B-3) which suit Forsyth's talents perfectly. Frankly, I could listen to this one song over and over for days.

Thus hooked, you're likely to stay with the rest of the album, even though it wanders a bit from the contemporary to the traditional and back again. Like many multi-talented musicians, Forsyth is still in the process of deciding what her own specialty is ... but that's fine. It's all good. Forsyth's voice is confident and expressive throughout and she sings with a kind of barefaced passion that is just plain lovable. The playing, both by Forsyth and her friends, is wonderful and appropriate and the record is beautifully recorded.

My only criticism, which is minor, is that perhaps there are too many songs here. I mean, 16! That's really a lot. And the inclusion of "Somewhere Off the Foot of This Mountain" (a stunner of a song) twice, in both solo and accompanied forms, isn't really necessary. Because Forsyth's vocal and guitar work dominate both versions, I think they'd sound essentially the same to the casual listener. (For the record, my favourite is the solo one.) On one hand, so many songs (like so many support musicians) seems to testify to Forsyth's enormous talent. It also answers the question she starts out with in her liner notes "Where ya been"? (Writing a helluva lot of songs, I guess.) It would have been challenging no doubt to cull this collection, but it might have been a good idea. Then again, I tend to think Forsyth can do whatever she wants, and she should. I'll be listening.

[ by Joy McKay ]
Rambles: 24 November 2001



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