Saturday, June 13, 2009

Chrissi Poland - Songs From the Concrete, New Album Finished



The good news out of New York this week is that Chrissi Poland's album, Songs From the Concrete is finished, with release in the works, hopefully soon; that's the promo cover shown above. The album contains eleven original songs, all recorded live in the studio, brilliantly produced by Jon Cowherd with co-production by Chrissi.

About three hours after writing it, Chrissi stunned the Living Room last fall with a performance of "Alone With My Troubles" when she opened her show with it on Election night, November 4th, 2008. I know I haven't been the same since, and this song now does likewise as track one on the album.

Listen to "Alone With My Troubles"



Steve Eliott, Chrissi & Jon in the main studio at the Carriage House in Stamford, CT.

Recording with some supremely talented musicians, Chrissi and Jon have accomplished a true labor of love on this record, allowing every track to realize it's maximum potential, "Angel Weep For Me" is a good example.

Listen to "Angel Weep For Me"


This mainstay of Chrissi's live set has changed in performance and production over the years, but the genius of the song has been right there since day one, a beautiful piece of songwriting. Live, it sounds great in any number of configurations, whether solo or with band, whether on acoustic or electric piano, but "Angel Weep for Me" has never sounded quite like it does here on the record. Accompanied by Jon on Wurlitzer, Sam Yahel on organ, Steve on guitars, John Patitucci on bass, and Brian Blade on drums, Chrissi gives the vocal her sweetest and most impassioned performance yet, and this world class band applies the most delicate and beautiful touch, with their instruments combining in an arrangement that is a total delight. If you listen closely towards the end of the song, you can hear Brian Blade singing a few lines with Chrissi. Jon and Steve add some backing vocals as well. This is just one gem, on a record that is loaded with them.

Listen to "Another Sad Song" while you check out a few photos from the recording session and the tracklist.


"Another Sad Song" was arranged by Jon & Chrissi with a Wurlitzer riff and a gorgeous guitar line that blends elements of jazz, soul and pop into this already bluesy song.


Chrissi in the vocal booth.

Here's the tracklist:
1. Alone With My Troubles
2. Another Sad Song
3. Sing
4. This Time Around
5. Yours is the Love
6. Caught Between
7. Angel Weep For Me
8. Next Time
9. No Good Guy
10. Little Bit of Loving
11. Thinking of You


John Patitucci on bass.

All the songs on the record were written either by Chrissi, or by Chrissi & Jon together. Jon did a superb arrangement on "Yours Is the Love", which lets the song really rock in a way that is both subtle and soulful at the same time. Perhaps the most dramatic departure from anything ever heard from Chrissi before is the song "Caught Between". Clearly a gifted songwriter as evidenced by all of her work to date, Chrissi pushes her own envelope here with the heaviest song she's ever done, and that's saying a lot considering the raw emotional intensity of "Alone With My Troubles". "Caught Between" has some well-said social commentary about environment and alienation, powered by some intensely burning guitar work from Steve.


Brian Blade on drums.

Jon writes for and plays some magically beautiful piano with Brian Blade and the Fellowship Band, and in addition to his other hats on this record, Jon anchors all of the songs with his piano and Wurlitzer. It was fortuitous that Blade was able to take two days out from being one of the most in-demand jazz drummers on the planet to make this record; ditto for John Patitucci who added his masterful bass to six of the tracks. Steve Elliot has been flooring me with his exquisite guitar work since first seeing him play with Chrissi at that Election night show. Chris Thomas who plays bass with the Fellowship Band, and Sam Yahel, a Hammond organ specialist, also add their special skills to Songs From the Concrete.


Chris Thomas on bass.

Here's one more preview listen. If you listen closely to the words (a must) you'll hear this song give the album it's title, and if the last verse gives you chills, that's okay too.

Listen to "Next Time"


"Next Time" is another piece of extaordinary songwriting by Chrissi, and like most all of the songs on this record, it defies musical genre classification. Only "Alone With My Troubles" could really be labeled, and Chrissi writes and sings the slow blues as well as it's ever been done, "Troubles" seems almost the flip side of Al Kooper's Blood Sweat & Tears classic "I Love You More Than You'll Ever Know". The other ten songs variously incorporate elements of blues, soul, jazz, rock, pop, and country, but can't be adequately described by any one of those tags.


Chrissi, Jon, and sound engineer Joe Barbaria listen to playback in the control room.


Sam Yahel at the Hammond organ.

Live Preview: If you are in the greater New York area, mark your calendar now to come see Chrissi and her band at the Metropolitan Room on Wednesday October 21st at 7:30pm; you'll hear a great live preview of Songs From the Concrete. Right now you can also listen to a few more songs from the album currently streaming on Chrissi's myspace, and watch her gig schedule there for more upcoming live shows.

Chrissi Poland's myspace.