Ingrid Heldt, Love Matters (Hilda's House Productions, 2002)

This is not modern folk music. It's a lovely album in the style of pre-rock pop, influenced by some modern singers, but just as often influenced by jazz. But for the electric nature of the background, most of the songs could have been recorded in the forties. Her vocal style, too, while high and beautiful, has an old feel, as if someone had magically stripped the scratches and crackle from an ancient record. It's not a polished gem of a voice, but a "burrs in the sweater" voice, lovely in part because it has a mild creak.

Even the optimism and sentiment of the album feel "retro" - even the most tender of modern musicians, like Yasmine White, still have a hint of an edge, a dark realism. Ingrid Heldt is far more optimistic, an unashamed dreamer, a romantic. The album title is a warning for the cynics; they may find her romantic view too cloying. Yet a closer listen, or a look at the lyric insert, shows an undercurrent in many songs; of death, of departure, of the brevity of time. The romanticism is there, but it is there in conscious resistance of the bleakness of our world.

The opening track, "The Time Is Now" is about learning not to put off love, or living, because of the busy day to day schedule. The second is a melancholy farewell to a lover, which felt like it needed a fuller arrangement, perhaps orchestral, to be best presented. It's one of the few places the burr in her voice shows up to the song's detriment. "Land of Love" is a slightly creepy tune, that seems to be about dreams versus reality, with a surprisingly effective keyboard building the atmosphere. Whether the creepiness is intentional, or my own experience colouring the piece, I don't know. "The Real Thing" and "Too Soon" are paeans to folk already dead and gone. As for the songs between, that's one of the biggest weaknesses of the album; the strongest works are at the beginning and the close of the album, and the centre of the album is moderate -- pleasant, but not exciting. Of course, the single track that actually annoys me is "Check the Box!", a song that Ingrid remarks in the liner notes was a lot of fun to collaborate on. It does sound like a song that was fun to write, but the humour palls after just one listening, and it soon becomes a candidate for the skip button.

Ingrid appears to perform the entire album solo, though other songwriting credits are included. This is very possible; the majority of the album is done with keyboards and piano -- including the rhythm section, I suspect. However, while I am usually very critical of electric keyboards, Ingrid Heldt designs her music to suit the instrument available, and plays to its strengths, instead of using it as a replacement for other instruments.

On my first listen, I thought this album was pleasant, but too soft, too sweet. But every subsequent listen reveals new depths, and I enjoy it more at each encounter.


[Lenora Rose]

Ingrid Heldt’s Web site is here