Are You Satisfied? REVIEWS

AYSWEB

VICTORY REVIEW

Acoustic Music Magazine Vol 30 April 2005 Number 04 based in Seattle, Washington USA
Singer-Songwriter; Local LAURIE CHILDERS: ARE YOU SATISFIED? LC4880 – www.lauriechilders.com

If you drop this on the CD player with any expectation of Cheryl Crowe-style pop diva tunes, lyrics, and singing, you will be disappointed. This isn’t a “commercial product,” it’s a very intimate, complex and unique gift of self. Childers admits that she has been very reluctant even to perform these songs for people, and particularly worried about playing the piano in public. The worries are ill-founded, of course. Her piano suits her songs extremely well, as does her rich voice, and she and co-producer Roger Briand created both a clarity and fullness of sound, texturing the arrangements with back-up vocals (mostly by Childers herself_ and added instruments (notably Kent White on sax and Roger on electric bass, guitar and percussion). But we miss the point, I think, if we dwell too long on matters like instrumentation. The point, at the end of the day, is the songs, culled from two decades of living a soul-filled, adventurous life – singing of her life and, gratefully, ours as well. The writing of these songs seems to have been her way of processing the depths of her experiences, discovering meanings. In “Our grief is not a cry for war,” for example, she muses on the devastation and pain of the terrorist attacks on 9/11 and, without denying any of the anguish, stands up for peace. “This Africa land” imbues a profound love of East Africa with a sense of the strangeness, even the danger she experienced there. Her title song gestated in a gathering of women who discussed the nuances of “satisfaction” and was born twelve days later as Childers awoke from sleep. Though her lyrics often utilize the strengths of prose narrative and are unafraid of occasionally running rampant over the melody line she has created (the melody is, to my ears, always secondary, a conveyer of lyrics), there is an undeniable poetic current that powers these songs and, in its willingness to be vulnerable and utterly real, it creates songs that neither have a “hook” nor can be tossed away after one listening. You will want to live with these the way you live with poetry that speaks to you and teases out deeper and deeper meanings over time.

(Bill Fisher, for Victory Review)

ROOTSTOWN MUSIC

And then, a review in Flemish, published in the RootsTown Music Free-zine #120, Jan 2005, Belgium(archived in www.members.tripod.com/RootsTown). Translation by the reviewer, Antoine Legat, follows. The rest are from letters sent to me by friends, and a verbal comment from my young son.

Laurie Childers / Are You Satisfied? / LC4880 (www.lauriechilders.com) ‘All songs by Laurie F. Childers’ en dat blijkt het verklankt dagboek te zijn van twee decennia intens leven. Lange tijd vond Laurie Childers het uiterst moeilijk die songs te zingen, terwijl ze zichzelf begeleidde op de piano, tot ze enkele jaren geleden tot het besef kwam van de sociale dimensie van muziek, hoe alomvattend muziek eeuwenlang was en nu is, onverminderd. Are You Satisfied? doet daarom in het begin vreemd aan: de begeleiding is wel klassiek te noemen (mooi saxwerk van Kent White!), maar de songstructuren zijn niet gestroomlijnd, volgen melodisch en tekstueel een interne logica, niet gedicteerd door de mainstream songwriting manual (het einde van Ode To The Heart!). Haar zingen, overigens heel behoorlijk, net als haar pianospel, is bovendien niet bijgestuurd door enige podiumervaring. Niet dat het van een andere planeet komt, maar toch, ’t is dus even wennen. Of je dan nog voort luistert, moet ieder voor zich uitmaken, maar het is wel degelijk intrigerend en verrijkend om de bevindingen, de gemoedsgesteltenis en de drijfveren te ontdekken van iemand die haar levenservaringen in eigengereide liedjes goot. ‘Goed’ of ‘slecht’ doen hier dan niet meer toe. Het zal Laurie Childers wellicht ook worst wezen of ze al dan niet ergens in een of andere ‘best of’ lijst wordt gestouwd, of je dit al of niet op een autoradio kan draaien (niet dus), of een major haar werkstukjes wil oppikken. Eerlijk gezegd hebben wij met steeds meer belangstelling geluisterd, al vind je hier nergens de metaforen, de poëtische finesse, de diepgang, de dubbele bodems, de gelaagdheid van pakweg Dear Heather, het letterlijk laatste meesterwerk van Leonard Cohen, maar dat is wellicht geen eerlijke vergelijking: een beginnend veldrijder uit, pakweg, Zimbabwe kan je moeilijk op één lijn zetten met Sven ‘En-nu-nog-het-WK’ Nijs. De thema’s van Friendship en Where Love Grows laten zich raden. Haar ervaringen in Kenia treden naar voor in This African Land, natuur en gemoed vloeien samen in Breathing On Hope (een song die er negen jaar over deed om af te raken… de korte inleidingen zijn zeer verhelderend) en 9/11 vormt het thema van Our Grief Is Not a Cry For War, een titel die er niet om liegt. Lo Que Nos Haga Fuerte ontstond in Chili in ’98 en werd een jaar later in Oregon What Makes Us Strong: de twee versies vloeien in elkaar. Dangerous werd geschreven in Guatemala in ’99 en daaruit blijkt dat ze wel weet welke verderfelijke invloed haar eigen land gespeeld heeft in het Midden-Amerikaanse land. Modern Day Medicine Woman is één van de oudste songs hier (’82) en lijkt aan te geven in welke functie Childers de hot spots van onze planeet opzocht. Het vrouw-zijn beheerst ook al de titelsong en Goddessmother. Het afsluitende, zwaarbeladen Phoenix zingt ze zonder begeleiders of begeleiding (op de afsluitende rattles na) en illustreert nog eens de verfrissende eigenheid van Are You Satisfied? Wij wel. (AL)

. ..So here's the faithful translation! I omitted a remark which is very local (I can always explain! It's a nice anecdote, which might interest you) and added one part of a phrase which was intended to be there. I couldn't give more collaborators a tiny spot: it's already too long now! Laurie CHILDERS / Are You Satisfied? / LC4880 ( www.lauriechilders.com ) ,,All songs by Laurie F. Childers’’: this is indeed the sound diary of two decades of intense living. For a long time Laurie Childers found it extremely difficult to sing these songs, accompanying herself on the piano, until a few years ago when she came to realise the social dimension of music, the fact that music was for centuries and, still is, and undiminished so, encompassing. Are You Satisfied? comes through as rather strange in the beginning: the accompaniment can be called fairly traditional (nice sax by Kent White!), but the song structures aren’t streamlined as is current nowadays. They follow an idiosyncratic logic in music and text/lyrics, not dictated by any book, certainly not the mainstream songwriting manual (listen e.g. to the ending of Ode To The Heart!) Her singing, which by the way is more than adequate, as is her keyboard playing, isn’t adjusted by years of stage experience. Not that it sounds as if it comes from another planet, but, well, it’s a question of getting used to it. If one listens further on, is a matter of personal choice, but to us it is absolutely captivating, and enriching, to discover the findings, the state of mind and the motives of someone who’s put her life’s experiences in very personal and quite unique songs. ,,Good’’ or ,,bad’’ as a critic doesn’t matter any more at that point. And we can guess Laurie Childers couldn’t care less if, or not, someone puts her record on a best of list, if, or not, you can play this on a car radio (the answer here is: not), if a major would be so kind to take over and put out her work. To be true, we listened with an ever growing interest, although does not find constantly the metaphors, the poetic finesse, the depth, the double entendre’s, the layers of let’s say Dear Heather, the probably literally last masterpiece of Leonard Cohen, but that’s most probably not an honest comparison. (Note: in Dutch I added a comparison which can’t be understood if you don’t know about a certain docu soap, a certain sport and a certain situation…But I’m always willing to explain or translate!) The themes of Friendship en Where Love Grows can be guessed [but the angle’s unusual] Her experiences in Kenia come to the fore in This African Land, nature and state of mind flow together in Breathing On Hope (a song that did nine years to come to its (f)actual form…The short intro’s in the booklet are very revealing!) 9/11 is the theme of Our Grief Is Not a Cry For War, a title that speaks for itself. Lo que nos haga fuerte was written in Chile in ’98 and became one year later in Oregon What Makes Us Strong: the two melt together on the CD. Dangerous was penned in Guatemala in ’99 and goes to show that she knows what disastrous influence her own country had in that, or any, Central-American country. Modern Day Medicine Woman is one of the oldest songs here (’82) and seems to indicate in what shape (form, function…) Childers has been rambling the hot spots on this planet (on the site you read something about her ,,ongoing save-the-world projects’’) Womanhood is also a major occupation of the title tune and of Goddessmother. The closing, heavily laden Phoenix she brings without accompaniment (except for the final rattles) and illustrates once again the refreshing own-ness of Are You Satisfied? We are.

Antoine Légat (Flemish original and translation January 6th & 7th 2005, RootsTown)

FROM LETTERS TO ME:

Thank you for the beautiful concert. I was in tears several times because I felt like someone had really heard me deeply and was singing beautiful responses to me. Your voice is like my lavender clematis that opened up today to show its stamens of white, rose, magenta and black. So powerful by just opening up to the light as it climbs the trellis. . . . Thank you again for sharing so much of your true essence. It is hard to get behind so many lyrics - yours are a joy! J. M. 2002

"I hate Mom's songs. She takes like a minute to sing part of a word." Jordan Selker, age 7 August 2003

"Listening to your CD, I feel like I opened up your journal and went on your journey with you. It seems like you opened up your heart on each and every one of those songs. . . .The musicianship is great . . . I especially love the piano and saxophone on a number of the songs. N.N.

"Wildly impressive!" A.S.

"It's wonderfully soothing and provocative at the same time.!" R. M.

"It's beautiful, thoughtful, heartfelt, so true to you and all you believe." L.L.

"I have been listening to your album with great pleasure. The quality of the accompaniments and studio work is amazing, to say nothing of your facility with lyrics and composition. Congratulations on this magnum opus!" M. M.

"So here I sit in my house, surrounded by about 600 records, lots of audio tapes, a share of CD's, and nearly the only music that emanates from this place for days are your songs. I do not tire of them." S. R.

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