Seeing Things

Laurie Lewis

Rounder Records, 1998

REVIEW BY: Christopher Thelen


Laurie Lewis is definitely the female Townes Van Zandt.

Her country folk, almost bluegrass at times, sound, combined with the ability to tell a story like no other songwriter since the likes of Jim Croce, demonstrate that this woman might be one of folk's best kept secrets. Her latest release, Seeing Things, is further proof of this.

With the assistance of Darol Anger on violin and strings, Lewis utilizes her skills as a singer, guitarist and violinist (oh, did I mention songwriting?) to paint pictures of people and situations that we all can relate to.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

At times, Lewis delves into some beautiful pop/folk not unlike October Project ("Visualize"), creating songs that send chills up my spine every time I hear it. At other times, Lewis weaves words so strong that you can't help feel the joy or pain that they're meant to represent. It's incredibly hard for me to get through the final track "The Blackest Crow". Hell, I have difficulty just reading the lyrics in the liner notes: "The time has come, my dearest dear / for you and I to part / How little do you know of the grief and woe / in my poor aching heart." Ka-pow. A similar tale is told on "Let The Bird Go Free," which is only a little weaker, but not by much.

Lewis's subject matters on Seeing Things often are very serious. "Manzanar" looks at the life of a Japanese-American who was sent to a detention camp during World War II, while "Angel On His Shoulder" tells the tale of a man who doesn't realize his good fortune until he is involved in a terrible car crash. Don't be surprised if you find yourself reaching for the Kleenex at times - this is a very powerful disc to listen to.

But Lewis also shows she knows how to laugh, as shown on the song "Kiss Me Before I Die". It is a slightly irreverent, certainly off-beat look at experiencing the ecstacy of passion (and I'm not speaking about sexual) before leaving this vale of tears. It also addresses not living your life with the question "What if?".

Surprisingly, the moments that Lewis goes for a country/bluegrass feel are where Seeing Things falls apart. If you just listened to the opening track "Blue Days, Sleepless Nights," and assumed the rest of the disc was in that style, you would have missed out on some incredible music.

Seeing Things is a difficult disc to get though, especially if you're dealing with some of the issues that Lewis writes and sings about. However, the disc serves as a wonderful catharsis, and is more than enough to cement Lewis's future as one of this country's best story-telling singers. (And, with the loss of Jim Croce, Harry Chapin, John Denver and Townes Van Zandt, we need all we can get.)

Rating: B+

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© 1998 Christopher Thelen and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Rounder Records, and is used for informational purposes only.