Masts of Manhatta
There’s something I find refreshing about quirky female singer songwriters. I don’t mean the enforced quirkiness of the likes of Kate Nash either, more the wryness of outlook that comes of combining intelligence and emotion with maturity and those three qualities are to be found in abundance in Tracy Bonham’s album “Masts of Manhatta”.
There’s a surefootedness to this album. Every step taken – even when on tricky ground - takes the songs forward and much of what keeps these songs on the ground is the elegant and sophisticated musicianship that is matched by the understated production. Though I’ve yet to work out a logical explanation as to why I hate fiddles and love violins, Ms Bonham’s skills on the latter instrument provide much of the enjoyment gained from this album. On “Angel, Won’t You Come Down”, for example, that very violin gives the feeling of a country hoedown to a distinctly urban tale. Words also flow easily from Ms Bonham’s pen and her voice is seasoned with sufficient ennui to ensure that each one of these words rings true. “Big Red Heart” stands out here. Another love song, I hear you say? Sure, it has the big chorus but it’s also underpinned by a dry and direct sense of humour. Simple and effective but by no means an easy trick to pull off, Ms Bonham makes it look easy.
So while it seems that there is no deliberate attempt here to impress the listener, a concerted and successful attempt is made to charm and enchant instead. “Masts of Manhatta” isn’t fast food. No, it’s a gourmet meal and should be treated as such – don’t rush it as the joy is in the subtle seasoning.
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