Suzanne Vega: Songs in Red and Gray

5 stars (out of 5).

This is a hauntingly beautiful album. When I first bought it, shortly after its release in September 2001, I could not stop listening to it. I would have to pace myself, only play it so often, because I didn't want to burn out on it. I can't remember when I've been that -- seduced, is perhaps the best word -- by a CD.

Part of the magic is the contrast between her almost childlike, almost spoken presentation (this is the girl that brought us "Tom's Diner" and "Luka" back in 1990) and the heartbreakingly grown-up subject of many of the songs, her divorce from Mitchell Froom (producer of a number of her earlier albums and about a thousand others'). Listen to the lyrics from two stanzas of the single "Widow's Walk":

Though I saw it splinter, I keep looking out to sea.
Like a dog with little sense, I keep returning,
To the very area where I did see the thing go down,
As if there's something at the site I should be learning.

If I tell the truth then I would have to tell you this;
Though I grieve (and I believe I feel it truly),
I knew that ship was empty by the time it hit the rocks,
Cause we could not hold on when fate became unruly.

The other part is its flawless production and orchestration, which envelop but never overwhelm Vega's delicate voice, like the perfect setting for a perfect jewel. Favorite cuts are "Penitent", "Widow's Walk", "Soap and Water", the haunting title cut, and "Harbor Song", which has me looking for Bay Rum cologne every time I go shopping in a seaside town.

Can you tell I like this one?

[GET IT]

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