Priscilla Herdman,
The Road Home
(Redwing, 2003)

This is Priscilla Herdman's 12th recording project and her first solo project for five years. The mellow and easy-to-listen-to album includes songs by, among others, Eliza Gilkyson, Anne Hills, Julie Gold, Linda Thompson and Dave Carter. Although it is probably fair to say that the album is not overly ambitious it does achieve well what it sets out to do: present good songs in an accessible format. Herdman has an undeniably fine and pure voice, and also plays guitar. She reminds me of the British singer John Wright in that she can cover a range of material without putting a foot wrong. It is a polished and enjoyable album.

The first number, "Big Town," is a bright and breezy opening with Herdman's fine vocals accompanied by rich guitar and bass. I doubt if there would be many people who would not find themselves drawn into further listening through this striking beginning. Although much of the rest of the album does have a slower and quieter feel, it would be hard to identify a weak track.

There are two songs that stand out in particular for me. "Exile" is a memorable song by Hills in which Herdman is intriguingly accompanied by only a Tibetan singing bowl. She poignantly sings about exile from Tibet with a powerful universality. It is unhurried singing of the highest quality. I would have enjoyed further more original songs in this vein. "Kissangani" (by Henning Kvitnes) is about the fight for control of the diamond city of this name in the Republic of Congo. The struggle between occupying Ugandan and Rwandan armies led to at least 900 civilians being killed in June 2000. Like the previous song it is one with an emotional edge and a real story to tell. The upbeat percussion and expansive sound of the whole band create a very satisfying sound here. There is also a superb touch at the end with the addition of three extra singers giving an African feel to the tune.

Ten other musicians contribute to the album including the co-producers Scott Petito (basses, guitar, mandolin and ebow) and Hills (vocal harmonies and banjo). Also of note are Artie Traum (guitars), Al Petteway (guitars and cittern) and Brian Melick (drums and percussion). A successful ploy I feel is that the usual keyboards on an album like this are not included and the music is all the better because of it.

Sit or lie back and just enjoy and relax!

- Rambles
written by Andy Jurgis
published 20 March 2004

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