Music Review: Fay Wolf – Spiders

Many of the new artists I hear, I hear first in the soundtrack for a television show. For example, I first heard Eva Cassidy‘s cover of Cyndi Lauper‘s “Time After Time” on an episode of Smallville. And I heard Alexi Murdoch‘s “Breathe” for the first time in an early episode of Stargate Universe. And I first heard Fay Wolf, though I didn’t know it at the time, on an early episode of Covert Affairs.

So when I started listening to Fay’s new album Spiders, I knew I’d heard the voice before but it took me a while to figure out where. But I shouldn’t have been surprised that I first heard her music on TV, as her songwriting and composition style effortlessly combines storytelling and drama in much the same way as some of my favorite shows. Though her style is all her own, my ear keeps comparing her to artists as diverse as Florence + The Machine and Tori Amos, who also tell stories beneath the melodies.

Since listening to the music of Spiders, I’ve discovered that her songs have also been featured on episodes of Gray’s Anatomy, One Tree Hill, and Pretty Little Liars. Beyond that, she is a classically-trained actress who has worked in theater, film and television with appearances on Law & Order, Numb3rs, Bones, Ghost Whisperer, and NCIS: Los Angeles. And if the music and acting wasn’t enough to keep her busy enough, she’s also a professional organizer with her own company “New Order,” named after the band.

Spiders is full of emotional honesty but also includes a bit of wit and humor within her lyrics. A word of advice however, she also includes a bit of explicit language in those lyrics, so though her music is amazing it might be best for a more mature audience.

The album starts with two of my favorite songs – “The Thread of the Thing” and “The Passing” – which set things off on the right foot.

“The Thread of the Thing” employs the dreamy feel of someone trying to explain how they feel. The lyrics are stream of consciousness but hit me like those conversations between lovers as they fall asleep… “And the stories of kings and the needle and the thread of the thing… in a little while I see that I love the way you came on…” Between the steady percussion like a heartbeat, the simple chording, and the atmospheric effects, it really got my attention quickly.

“The Passing” on the other hand manages to sound very different than “The Thread of the Thing,” featuring Fay’s voice and piano skills. Again, it’s like a dreamy conversation – “See here’s the thing / I love being in motion / and wrapped around you… I can hear you / and I can see the time / the time passing / the time passing by…” It’s as though her voice tells the story as her fingers dance across the keys.

In the middle of the album, “Pull” just seems to ring true again about… you guessed it. Love. This time it’s a bit more outwardly happy in the melody. “But y’figured out that the least you could understand / your heart is open to someone else’s hand…” Love sometimes manages to pull the breath from us, just like falling down in the snow. But the almost calliope-sounding keys gives this song a strong feel of fun while keeping that atmospheric piano behind the scenes.

But “In the Way” is the opposite to the languid feel of “The Thread of the Thing” with a melody that is at once sad, but honest. “How did we fall in love in a week / and how do we get away / how do we see if the cracks in the plan / are the reasons that we play the game…” Again, it’s simply Fay and a piano telling an honest story about romance. Sometimes things don’t work out and “if it’s all not fair, then why are you here.” Sometimes we have to look deeper than the fun we’re having to see that something isn’t good.

Spiders manages to express the complexities of love without seeming trite. I think that’s her gift, telling stories of love when it goes right and when it falls apart. Check it out at your favorite retailer. And for details about Fay, be sure to drop by her website

This article first appeared at here.

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Music Review: Eva Cassidy – Simply Eva

Hi all!

A decade ago, I heard Eva Cassidy for the first time in an unlikely place. We were watching an episode of Smallville on television and as soon as the song came on I started to ignore whatever was happening on screen. Eva was singing her version of Cyndi Lauper‘s “Time After Time“. Already a fan of the original, Eva’s version took it to a whole different level… and thus started my fascination with her music.

That one song was my gateway drug. Since then, I’ve picked up albums here and there, always hungry for more. Her album Time After Time still finds its way into my playlist at least once a week. Her versions of “Kathy’s Song” (written by Paul Simon and originally performed by Simon & Garfunkel), “At Last” (originally performed by Etta James), and “Woodstock” (originally performed by Joni Mitchell) haunt my mind on a regular basis.

It’s tough for me to describe the qualities of her voice in words. She was ethereal at times. Always passionate. With a tenderness and a strength that sends chills down my spine every single time. There are few voices that do that to me on a regular basis and Eva’s is one of them.

As I began learning more about Eva, I was crushed to discover that she had passed away of melanoma in 1996 at the age of 33. Another life cut far too short. She had so much more to share with the world.

So when I heard Blix Street Records was releasing an album of twelve acoustic tracks from Eva, I knew I had to give it a listen. The album, called Simply Eva, goes back to the core of what Eva relied on – her voice and her guitar. And as always, I was not disappointed. How could I be?

There are some songs I’d heard before with broader arrangements, such as “People Get Ready” which appeared on Live at Blues Alley. And both “Kathy’s Song” and “Time After Time” appeared on her album Time After Time. But these are stripped down versions that really showcase her guitar skills as well as her amazing voice.

Though every track is amazing, I’m going to focus on three here that really moved me.

Wade in the Water” is a classic gospel song that she just croons with a simple pluck and strum pattern that takes this gospel to a bluesy place that simply rocks. Eva would fit right into a gospel choir with this one. There’s a spiritual quality to her singing that makes even this agnostic soul think twice. For years my father has played this song on his twelve-string guitar but wasn’t able to remember the name, which makes it all that much more personal for me.

Then there’s “Wayfaring Stranger,” which is a staple of the folk tradition. And once again, Eva makes this an emotionally loaded song of cascading meanings. I wonder what she was thinking of as she sang… “I’m just a poor wayfaring stranger / Traveling through, this world of woe. / There’s no sickness, toil nor danger / That bright land, to which I go.” For someone who left us with so much more to say, I hope she’s someplace like that.

And finally, there’s “Over the Rainbow” written for the MGM classic movie The Wizard of Oz. Eva played with the arrangement a bit to make it hers. It’s a song of hope for the future… “Someday I’ll wish upon a star / And wake up where the clouds are far / Behind me.” With a wistful quality in her voice, you truly believe that she hopes things will turn out for the best someday.

If you are a fan of Eva Cassidy’s, or simply are looking for some amazing acoustic folk with a voice that will leave you longing for more, I can’t recommend picking up a copy of Simply Eva enough. Give it a listen. She is missed, but she left behind an amazing legacy for us to enjoy for years to come.

Simply Eva is available today – Tuesday, January 25, 2011.

This article first appeared at here.


p.s. Pick up this and other great Eva Cassidy albums from Barnes & Noble and Amazon below:

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Music Review: light at eventide – Erika Chambers

Hi again!

Occasionally I’m approached by an artist directly to do a review. But only rarely do I listen to the first 10 seconds of a song and immediately reply to say I’ll review a CD.

In mid-August, Erika Chambers dropped me an e-mail and asked me to take a listen to her new album light at eventide. What she actually said, which peaked my curiosity, was that if I liked Crooked Still (and I love them), I just might like her album. She was right. I know it’s cliche, but in this case I’m convinced that she has a voice like an angel.

She describes herself as an indie Americana artist out of Nashville, whose songs are always private and personal, written in the quiet of her mind. Inspiration comes from hymns, mountain songs, family, people she meets, a news story, or the experience of her own life. In her bio on her website she writes that her songs aren’t fancy – recorded wherever she can find equipment and time. And quite honestly, I think that gives her music a “real” quality that’s sometimes tough to find in soundproofed professional studios.

It’s obvious that she has numerous folks in her corner. She days – “Often, I paid my producer by taking him out for Mexican food. He literally worked for beans.” But I think all the support from family, friends, fellow vocalists and instrumentalists has paid off. Though it took Erika nearly four years to complete light at eventide, there are some simply stunning songs on it that she and all of her collaborators should be proud of.

As I said earlier on, I was captured by the first few seconds of the first song on the album – “freedom song/birmingham” – which deals with some of the darker history and violence of the civil rights movement of the 1960s. It opens with her voice singing gospel-style, which simply gives me chills every time I hear it. “I stand on ashes where once there stood a home / here lived my family but now I stand alone / you told my papa to move us out of town / but he was a stubborn man who always stood his ground…” The rise and fall of her voice tells me she believes in what she’s singing as she tells the story of a woman who forgives the man who killed her family. And that’s just the start of the album. Powerful music, amazing voice, and a story that evokes raw emotion is a great way to kick things off.

“footprints” is another song that left a mark on me. Telling the story of a family stuck in the snow in Colorado and the brave act of a husband and father trying to save them. And though he didn’t make it to get help, his footprints led searchers back to where the family was and they were saved. “My true love did what only true love does / my children know the man their daddy was / and I pray someday my sons will choose to step into their fathers’ shoes / and they may stumble and they may fall / but his footprints will deliver us…”

The arrangement for “footprints” takes a powerful tale and pairs it with electric guitars, a driving beat like deliberate footsteps in the snow, and some harmonies that simply have to be heard to believe. There’s a power there that builds like the power that builds each time a tale of heroism is told, kicking this tune into overdrive. Erika is joined by Blue Mother Tupelo on this track, which adds layers of experience to the tale and her own expressive voice.

The last song of the eleven on the album I’ll talk about is “light at eventide”, which features Eric Paslay in a duet. Talk about quiet power. A single guitar with a simple melody meets a string bass, a drum beat, and strong harmonies that never once threaten to overwhelm the message of the song. And the words… “twilight sun through the trees / bowing low on its knees / diamond stars one by one cease to hide / burdens weigh on my breast / I will lay them now to rest here in the light at eventide…” It’s a prayer to know she’s not alone. “Chase the shadow from my soul / fill the sky with rays of hope / so I know I’m not alone…”

I’m not a religious person, but there’s a purity of spirit that echoes through these songs telling stories with hope. We all can probably use a bit more of that in our lives.

But don’t let me steer you wrong here. The rest of the album is amazing as well merging bluegrass, hymns, folk, and blues in ways you might find surprising. There’s humor, hope, and humility here in the rhythms, melodies, and words. In some ways, her talents remind me of Eva Cassidy – as though she has an old soul and can use her connection to that to tell stories that transcend her own experience.

For a sampling of some of her tunes, check this out:


I definitely encourage you to check out light at eventide when you get a chance. It’s an amazing album I’ll be listening to while I wait to see what else Erika can throw at us next. Give her a listen at the album’s website where you can stream it for free and check out her webiste at

This article first appeared at here.


p.s. Please check out her website and stream the album. Erika deserves all the support we can give her!

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