Annie Humphrey,
Edge of America
(Makoche, 2003)

Annie Humphrey uses the phrase "Edge of America" to represent more than geographical boundaries. Everyone is living on the edge of the ideal notion of America. The underlying concept of America is being eaten away by greed, bureaucracy and ignorance. Instead of focusing on selfish needs, the country should return its focus to one another and the original concept of America. If society can enact change, then perhaps "somewhere in the heart of America/we can take back our lives/we don't all have to fail."

Throughout the album, most songs have a social mission. "Precious Moon Daughter" laments the sad plight of the homeless. "Nightmares and the American Dream" tells the story of the other side in the Gulf War. While a bit heavy on the metaphors, "Mother's Rain" is still an inspiration for any victims or witnesses of abuse, encouraging strength and courage to change the future.

"Justice Hunters" is striking for its simplicity -- just Annie Humphrey on vocals and piano and its prophecy of imminent (or eminent?) change. The lyrics claim "Justice for all is on the way." She doesn't say what will change; there's no need. Again, she taps into a universal understanding that doesn't need to be mired with needless description.

For those that seek a break from serious-themed music, there are also some simply enjoyable tunes. There's an excellent cover of Jackson Browne's "Rock Me on the Water." The love ballad "Storm" showcases Humphrey's softer side, especially her duet in the chorus with Keith Secola. While Secola offers a masculine voice that is comfortably acquiescent to Humphrey's dominant voice, the compatible vocal relationship is understood.

Edge of America is a beautiful album resulting from the union of a lovely voice and excellent lyrics. The words and Humphrey's musical style provide an uncanny ability to directly access the listener's understanding with the simplest of phrases and notes. While lyrics are usually a method to convey a singer's talents, in this case they take a rare position as co-star, competing with Humphrey's vocal talents in terms of depth, as both seek to eliminate boundaries and share life experiences. Edge of America is engaging and enjoyable, from the first haunting guitar chord in the title track to the last lonely piano key of "Justice Hunters."

- Rambles
written by C. Nathan Coyle
published 10 July 2004

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