Vicky Harris,
(Locust Street, 2002)

Vicky Harris's Touch is a warm, open collection of songs, featuring one truly outstanding song and many others that are very appealing.

"Touch," the title track, is a lovely piece of songwriting that left me applauding in the kitchen and planning to learn it in time for my next community song circle. It's always heartening when, in an independent recording made up of songs that are very personal, a track steps into the "universal" category and elevates the entire body of work.

This particular track was co-written with Paul Carne. Featuring a beautiful, memorable melody and simple, true lyrics ("I don't ask the earth for diamonds/I don't yearn for the pot of gold/I don't ask this earth to keep me 'til I'm 98 years old") the love song articulates the author's wish for only one thing: the touch of her beloved.

The sentiment is consistent with the messages of mature love (in romance and in all permutations of family) that run through Touch, Harris's debut album. Her lovely voice and guitar work are nicely framed by co-producer Michael Mugrage on additional guitars (including appropriate Latin nylon-string at times), synthesizer, piano and percussion, as well as Beth Stiles on pianos and production. A polished but "folkie" album, most of the songs are mid-tempo ballads (which is a downside) but it's a solid, well-realized collection.

Listening to the album, I was reminded at times of Beth Nielsen Chapman, Cheryl Wheeler and Connie Kaldor. Several songs, though highly personal, resonated with truth. In particular, I found "An Ordinary Day" very moving as it recounted a mother's defeat by alcohol: "While she drinks vodka and milk/taking her away/slowly she fades/on an ordinary day." This song brought tears to my eyes, remembering my own father's struggle (same problem, different drink). Other songs deal with similarly mature themes including parenthood and the death of an old friend.

In the liner notes, Vicky Harris writes: "I wrote my first love song at 15 years old. Many years have passed since then and I have walked in and out of the songwriting light countless times. Music has always been a healing force in my life. ... A song is so powerful, it can release an emotion, mark a day, freeze a memory. I hope the songs I've chosen touch you in some small way."

If I had a suggestion, it would be to concentrate more on melody, just to really catch the ears of all the millions of baby boomers out there. That said, Vicky Harris's Touch is sure to find its way into many hearts. It's a privilege to be invited into her world.

- Rambles
written by Joy McKay
published 19 July 2003