erasing clouds

Roman Evening, Tiny Ladies (Bitter Stag)

review by dave heaton

Tiny Ladies opens with an eerie, melancholy piano-and-stringsinstrumental "theme" that would lead you to think you were listening to a film score. The album is a soundtrack, but to a book, not a film. Author Adam Klein and keyboardist Micheal Mullen wrote Tiny Ladies as the soundtrack to Klein's novel of the same name, and recorded it with their band Roman Evening (which also features Tim Mooney of American Music Club). And while Roman Evening's web site notes, "We hope you listen while you read," and I imagine the novel and the album complement each other well, the album has an emotional trajectory of its own. While the four film-score like instrumentals (of the album's 10 tracks) do give the feeling that you're experiencing an musical version of a narrative that could be a film, it's easy to love this album without knowing that it has anything to do with a book, to love it for its beautiful melodies, its heartwrenching sweep and how vividly the songs bring to mind people, places, and experiences.

The songs on Tiny Ladies are about people who are filled with hurt and disappointment but want to be filled with hope. The first song after the theme, "Casework," includes the line "Sometimes life is such a disappointment," and it's a sentiment that is echoed throughout the album, in the textured pop and in Klein's thin but effective voice (which sounds a bit like Ron Sexsmith's does when he's not on as much of an adult-contemporary trip) as much as the lyrics. "My regrets, they fill the night/like absent stars dark with appetite," Klein sings at one point.

Near the album's center is an obliterating piano ballad called "Song For the Ashes," which looks at destruction both as an end and a potential beginning. The album's other show-stopping ballad, "Changed By Your Face," closes the album on a note of potential happiness. It's an expression of the redemptive power of compassion that stirs like a classic soul ballad is poetic enough not to come off like a sappy tacked-on conclusion. It and the album's closing instrumental "Credits" bring the album to completion in a way that's fitting to a novel but rare for a pop record. You feel like you've been on a tear-filled journey and are the better for it.


Issue 14, August 2003 | next article

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