The last of Elaine’s albums to come my way was her second release, Rise, back in August 2013, which epitomised the thoughts and preoccupations of a sensitive lady who’s “a wife, mother, astronomer, songwriter, gardener and fellow traveller on planet Earth”. Not much has changed in the interim, for Elaine still clings steadfastly to her trusty philosophy of life on this new collection of self-penned songs.
The contemplative, tranquil contentment with one’s lot is informed by a sincere appreciation of the value of life, since Elaine avows that, the longer she lives “the greater is my sense of wonder and appreciation for the powerful and still mysterious life force that animates the Earth”, and she derives much comfort from companionship – inspiring us to do the same, as on You Are Not Alone and Rolling Home in particular but as a recurring theme throughout most of the songs. Rebekah, jointly-penned with Eli McNamara at a songwriting camp, arose from a dream about Eli’s late aunt, and its reminiscence ably sidesteps sentimentality (in lesser hands, another of Elaine’s songs, When My Mother Sings, might easily have lapsed into this trap). Elaine’s also unafraid to tackle the darker sides to life, examining the dissolution of a friendship (Shadows Dancing), or the wider environmental concerns of her home state (Sweet Florida). Perhaps Elaine’s sense of gentle wonder can occasionally come across as a little simplistic, as on Look Up and the album’s title song, but by and large the immediacy of her response, her sincerity and conviction, win the day. Maybe my favourite song here, though, is Spring, a song of the seasons as experienced in Elaine’s own garden, which inhabits an especially interesting melodic landscape.
Once again, Elaine’s chosen her musical accompanists carefully to surround and enhance her pure, clear singing voice, and she benefits greatly from the classy contributions of a virtually identical crew to that engaged on Rise: Lon and Elisabeth Williamson, Gabe Valla, Jason Thomas and Penny Nichols, with this time the addition of Hannah Alkire (cello) on just a couple of numbers (Denali and the album’s title song).
Elaine’s hope is that listening to her songs will arouse in you a sense of wonder, shift your perspective, and in doing so reveal the universal threads of love that tie us all together”; I do believe that with Reach For The Stars she succeeds admirably in this intent.
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