Monday, August 28, 2006

23rd Street Lullaby

Patti Scialfa has recorded two albums, one in 1993 called Rumble Doll and another in 2004 called 23rd Street Lullaby. They are both as good as anything I have ever heard. The songwriting is both strong and delicate. The music is perfect.

When I first heard Rumble Doll, I was working in a record store. Knowing of the Bruce Springsteen connection, I popped it onto the in-store CD player and gave it a spin as I went about my business of pricing, alphabetizing, and selling. I liked it, but it was evident that Rumble Doll was not being heard in its best possible environment. After work, I took that promo copy home, turned down the lights, and listened to it again with headphones. I paid attention to everything and it owned me. Her voice is that seemingly impossible mix of flawless imperfection. Just scratchy enough to feel the ache and sincerity of every word.

Today, I was thinking about her as I read more stories of her impending divorce from her husband and looked her up on Rhapsody to give Rumble Doll another listen. Clicking on her name, I was surprised to see a second release that I was not familiar with. 23rd Street Lullaby came out two years ago and I hadn't heard a note of it. This was another perfect time to listen. My young daughter just down for her nap, I could listen to it uninterrupted. I was rewarded by another fantastic piece of insightful and interesting work by this very talented artist. Nothing is exaggerated, and the songs are rich with confident nuance.

23rd Street Lullaby remembers her time living in the New York's famous Chelsea community in the late 70s and early 80s. This is an album which recalls those days fondly. It remembers the yearnings that are strong with so many of us and it pays tribute to those who are still working hard just to barely make it ("Rose").

While Patti Scialfa will be mentioned in the news and gossip pages for a bit as she and her husband go about dissolving their marriage, let's not forget that her talent stands strong as an artist and musician. Eleven years passed between Patti's first CD and her second. Let's hope that her third release will arrive much sooner. What she creates is well appreciated. I wish her the best.

[Edit to add: No later than ten hours after I published this post, I saw that Bruce released a statement refuting the rumors of his split with wife, Patti. For some reason, I read it with an unstoppable grin. I love watching them interact together on stage, and I particularly love "Red Headed Woman," his ode to her, and it's beautiful to watch him look her in her eyes as he sings it in concert. That song has more mischief and sex in it than anything I have ever heard him sing.

I'm glad to hear that the marriage is cool. Here's his statement regarding the rumors: "Due to the unfounded and ugly rumors that have appeared in the papers over the last few days, I felt they shouldn't pass without comment. Patti and I have been together for 18 years — the best 18 years of my life. We have built a beautiful family we love and want to protect and our commitment to one another remains as strong as the day we were married."]

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