Stephanie Finch: The Power Of Simplicity
Stephanie Finch sings in a high, plaintive register that can sound both pleading and firm, sarcastic and wry. It's a voice of knowingness, from which innocence has been stripped away to reveal a performer who knows what she wants from herself and from other people. Many of Finch's songs -- she wrote six of the ten on this album -- are guided as much by keyboard and guitar riffs as by her singing. "Don't Back Out Now" uses a simple, insistent guitar hook that recalls The Velvet Underground or Jonathan Richman's Modern Lovers. And she uses the power of simplicity in "Tina Goodbye."
Chuck Prophet produced this album with Finch; they happen to be married. Prophet, who used to be in the band Green on Red and is part of Finch's group The Company Men, has produced first-rate albums for singer-songwriters various as Alejandro Escovedo and Kelly Willis. On Finch's album Cry Tomorrow, she covers a song Prophet wrote for Escovedo called "Sensitive Boys." Escovedo sang the song plaintively, as though sensitivity was a burden. Finch takes the song and makes it a sharp-eyed, tough-minded critique of boys who fancy themselves to be sensitive.
Another superb song covered by Finch on this album is "Count the Days 1-2-3-4-5-6-7," written and recorded in the 1960s by the brother-and-sister soul act Charlie and Inez Foxx. Finch and Prophet rearrange the song, slowing it down and turning it into something else entirely. Where Charlie and Inez Foxx sang "Count the Days" as a proclamation of romantic freedom, ie Finch turns the tune into more of a threat -- a threat that says you'll be counting the days after I leave you. You will suffer when I'm gone. And it's all the more effectively devastating when sung in such a hauntingly matter-of-fact manner.
There's a nice avoidance of singer-songwriter confessionalism throughout Cry Tomorrow. And the album title is apt: Finch may cry tomorrow, but right now, she's going to lay it all out for you, the good and the bad stuff that precedes any crying. And besides, who says she's the one who's going to be the one in tears when she gets finished with you?
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