Mae Robertson,
(Lyric Partners, 2002)

Mae Robertson understands the beauty of a great song. In her latest CD Smile, a collection of folk songs and popular music standards, she reminds listeners that songs are for sharing and for passing along.

Robertson made a dramatic career change when she began recording songs for children after establishing a three-store children's retail enterprise. Her CDs for young audiences (All Through the Night, The Sun Upon the Lake is Low and Sweet Dreams of Home) earned good reviews and several awards. Then she recorded her first "grown-up" album, Stone by Stone in 2000. She wrote many of the songs for that project, but realized that she really enjoyed selecting and singing songs by other writers. So Smile is an album of cover tunes -- and a good one at that!

All of the songs she includes are by established, well-respected tunesmiths, including Randy Newman ("Feels Like Home"), Paul Simon ("American Tune"), Beth Nielsen Chapman ("Seven Shades of Blue") and Lucinda Williams ("Side of the Road"). Eddy Arnold and Cindy Walker's very familiar "You Don't Know Me" is here, as is the Chaplin/Turner/Parsons standard "Smile" ("Smile when your heart is breaking, smile even though it's achingÉ"). That song is especially poignant because Robertson sings it as a duet with her daughter Cally.

I loved that song in particular, as well as "You Don't Know Me" and the Johnny Cash and Roy Cash Jr. song "I Still Miss Someone." These songs seem to have risen to a cultural icon status that helps me forget the original version and simply appreciate the new interpretation. For whatever reason, I found that harder to achieve with "American Tune" (which has Simon's voice burned into my brain) and David Wilcox's "Show the Way" (that comes from his New Horizon album which I adore).

However, on every song, Robertson's voice has an honest, clear sensitivity that cuts across taste differences and should fall upon receptive ears. The straightforward arrangements favoured by producer Frank Gallagher will appeal to mature audiences and families. Robertson is supported by a substantial list of players including Jim Ohlschmidt and Pete Huttlinger on acoustic guitars, Viktor Krauss on acoustic bass, Tim O'Brien on mandolin and fiddle, Fran Breen on drums and many others, including Kate Campbell and Sloan Wainwright on backing vocals.

All in all, Smile is a sweet and satisfying album that lives up to its title!

- Rambles
written by Joy McKay
published 30 August 2003

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