Eve Goldberg, Crossing the Water (Borealis 2003)
Eve Goldberg tends to be very self effacing about her talents, and is wont to credit others for being where she is now, and she is certainly one of the most promising young singers in the Canadian folk scene. On Crossing the Water, her second CD release, her thank-you list takes a whole page. Born into a musical family, she has long been a stalwart of the Toronto folk scene - a regular participant in the Toronto Song Circle, The Woods Music and Dance Camp, the Flying Cloud Folk Club, and other Ontario events.
She grew up listening to and admiring many of the musicians who now accompany her - a tribute to her present stature as a writer, singer, and musician. Crossing the Water is Eve's second release, on the heels of her 1998 debut release Ever Brightening Day.
This latest album (produced by Ken Whiteley, one of Canada's top producers and musicians), also features many of the same luminaries of the Canadian folk scene as appeared on the first: Ken Whiteley, Chris Whiteley, Dennis Pendrith, Tannis Slimmon, Chris Coole, among others - a situation Eve modestly describes as being, '..nice to set sail with such a great crew.'
So I say, enough modesty. This is a great album, with something for almost
every taste within the acoustic spectrum -- classic country, blues, big band,
jazz, hints of the southern mountains. Eve Goldberg has a true country
voice: melodic, suggesting emotion rather than wringing it out; strong without being strident.
Ken Whiteley's production on this Borealis release is flawless. Arrangements run from unaccompanied harmony, and solo voice with guitar, to a full band sound, with trumpet, piano, and drums. What a good ear the man has! Orchestrations are never cluttered and all complement Eve's treatment of the songs without overpowering them.
Six of the thirteen songs were written by Eve Goldberg, alone or in collaboration with Ken Whiteley. The opening track, 'Something About a Sunday', is influenced by the classic blues singers, and exudes the determined procrastination of one bent on getting the most (or the least) out of the weekend and 'relaxing indefinitely'. The saxophone lends just the right amount of horizontality. 'Union Street Café', a delightful tribute to a favourite Nova Scotia food and battery recharging stop, is given a stomping trad. jazz treatment with Ken's washboard, brother Chris' trumpet and Dennis Pendrith's tuba. 'Down to Tennessee' has a more of a southern mountain sound befitting its theme. Eve engagingly confesses that it is actually about North Carolina, but that Tennessee made an easier rhyme.
'Sheshatsiu Lullaby' is sadly inspired by television news footage of children sniffing gasoline in dysfunctional remote northern communities. Her comforting, caressing words contrast the tragic absence of emotional comfort in these troubled youngsters. 'You Don't Need to Miss Me', another Goldberg/ Whiteley collaboration, is a charming song of friendship with a chorus that demands participation. 'Going Back to Boston' is a bluesy number about a visit to the old home town. This is given a fairly laid back treatment, underscored by Chris Whiteley's masterful harmonica.
Of the covers, Iris Dement's 'Mama's Opry' has Eve in full country mode. This, I think, is where she is most at home -- every slide and catch in her voice is spot on. 'It Rains Everywhere I Go' from the singing of bluegrass musician Lynn Morris, is given a more gentle country treatment. Ken Whiteley's accordion is a nice touch.
It's a brave woman who attempts one of Jane Voss' heartbreaking songs, and happily, 'The Thing that Makes you Beautiful' soars splendidly. Eve draws every aching vowel and consonant out of the haunting lyrics and swooping melody. In 'Did You Hear John Hurt', a nice flowing guitar and vocal harmony chorus appropriately honour Paxton's tribute to the great man.
Stylistically unique on the recording is Linda Allen's 'Rosie the Riveter', sung in unaccompanied three part harmony with Eve's mother Sue and an electronic doppelganger. The melody and presentation are stunning.
The classic 'Take these Chains From My Heart' wasn't my favourite track. This version sounds to me as though her heart isn't completely in it. Eve describes it as a good hurting song, sung as if channelling Bessie Smith. To my ear, Eve's strengths are in songs with more of a country influence. I'm afraid the bluesy songs didn't twang my heartstrings as much as when she sings a country song.
Eve learned the closing song, Bill Staines' anthem 'Crossing the Water', from a live recording of David Parry in concert. It's a fine community song, an appropriate tribute to Eve's musical upbringing, and fitting that she sings this choral arrangement in a live concert with most of the people she enjoys music with.
This album covers a wide musical range, and is a strong showcase for a performer who deserves to be, and almost certainly will be, more widely known outside Ontario.