Shari Ulrich,
The View From Here
(Doremus Music, 1998)

I perused the lyric sheets to Shari Ulrich's new CD, The View From Here, before I actually listened to the CD. I must admit, there's a big difference between my impression of the type of music that would accompany these lyrics and the actual music that poured out of my speakers. Ulrich has been making music for over 25 years in Canada; this CD, according to Ulrich, is the culmination of those years as a writer, singer, musician and recording artist.

To be honest, the opening track, "I Found You," didn't do much for me. It sounded too much like a gospel-influenced love song and overall just left me bored. However, the next track, "I Will Be There," surprised me in more ways than one. From the well-written lyrics, I expected another love song, this time from a mother to her child. Nothing prepared me for the lilting Irish music that opened this track. The music, actually, kept this song from going too far into the land of Hallmark verse; the lyrics, while sentimental, are clear and sparse, which also helps make this song one of my favorites.

"The Fisherman's Lament" stands out as another strong track on the CD, with haunting violin and piano arrangements. "The View From Here" is another excellent instrumental track, featuring the beautiful, yet eerie sounds of a pennywhistle and piano. Both songs made me envision wide, sweeping vistas of grasslands and forests with a peaceful river meandering through them.

"Watching the River Run" is much more upbeat than the other songs on the CD; Ulrich's voice is strong and clear, while the rhythms are tight. The rest of the songs on The View From Here just sound too much alike -- slow, gentle musings on life and love, mainly dominated by piano arrangments that seem to blend together.

It's not that these songs are bad. In fact, it's quite the opposite. The songs themselves are all very good; Ulrich has a pleasing voice, and her team of musicians all perform well together. The CD features Ulrich on violin, dulcimer and mandolin; Michael Crebar on piano and synthesizer; Bill Henderson on guitar, accordion and pennywhistle; Jerry Adolphe on drums; Brian Newcombe on bass; and Blair Calibaba on tambourine.

It's just that I'm not overly fond of Ulrich's style of music. Several of the songs sound like the type of music that appears on wedding samplers -- not that that's a bad thing. Personally, though, I'm a fan of more eclectic mixtures on CDs. I'd rather hear a wide variety of what an artist is capable of, rather than seeing an artist stick to the one thing he or she does best. But don't let that stop you from listening to Shari Ulrich. The View From Here is well-crafted, with several stellar moments. Ulrich's 25 years of experience have definitely paid off.

[ by Audrey M. Clark ]

Check out Shari's website