Friday, October 20, 2006
Album Review: The Girl I Used to Be
"The Girl I Used to Be" is the debut demo album of Helen Hitchens, a gifted folk singer/songwriter. It is recorded in her home studio with just herself and her guitar. Although obviously raw in production, it is a staple in my rotation of folk albums. This review comes around because I listened to it just before listening to Carole King's "Tapestry", one of the most acclaimed albums of all time, and I did not see much difference.
Before you laugh at me, let me point out the obvious. "Tapestry" is the better album. But ...
If you pared the fourteen songs on "The Girl I Used to Be" album down to the ten best, and expanded them a bit with professional arrangements, arranged for professional musicians, and gave the whole treatment professional production, it would stand up to anything out there. Perhaps there is a lack of stylistic variety, if compared to "Tapestry", but that is more like complaining about Handel because he is not as good as Bach.
Loosely biographical, the lyrics run the gamut from penetratingly biting ("What Was That?") to tender ("Light in the Sky"). All facets of love are examined - the first blush ("For The First Time"), the hard times ("Sometimes"), the ending ("The Man That I Once Knew"), the rebound ("One Wish") - Helen digs deeply into her experiences to give personal memories a universal and poignant treatment.
While I focused on the lyrics, a music album is no good without music. Helen has some very engaging melodies on the album (Light in The Sky, How Do You Stop, Waiting For the Train) - and the rest are quite pleasant. I would like to see her push her boundaries a bit more - I would also like to hear a second album!
Helen has a lovely, throaty voice reminiscent of Carly Simon's, that struggles a bit in the high range. I believe that is nothing that couldn't be propped up in a studio setting. Her guitar playing is lovely - rhythmic and musical, yet never overstated. I wish my own acoustic strumming could achieve such steadiness.
It makes me proud to see how much talent our family posesses