JUDEE SILL - HEART FOOD (1973)
On phosphorous wings the phoenix floated
the fires froze and the sea was hushed
and when I tried to speak, the sun imploded
and the war will wage in my guts
til the Devil bites the dust,
I never saw him losin' a race, but I think he must
My first exposure to Judee Sill came this year from Jane Siberry’s cover of “The Kiss.” The sheer arresting beauty of that song with its silver-clear visions of divine love is inarticulable. It was enough to drive me to buy her two albums on the spot.
As the patron saint of the cleverly-named country-cult-baroque, she has more than one trick up her sleeve, and the honeyed hymnal solemnity of “The Kiss” is not repeated ad nauseum, leaving room for the other tracks to dive into folky introspection, delicious gospel licks, and fanciful Wild West excursions.
Sill herself wouldn’t be out of place in a modern-day Flannery O’Connor story, a rebel-prophet whose achingly sincere cries for redemption and pureness of vision contrast delightfully with her short and squalid life of crime. To match, her favorite vision of God is a cowboy Jesus. She drapes violent religious imagery in swathes of gorgeous melody, her songs arranged with a singular passion and fervor of a scope that makes her untimely death seem even beyond tragic. The J.S. Bach influence is mentioned again and again, and not without good reason. It works itself into every lilting tune, but nowhere else is the baroque grandeur given such full command as in the album’s sprawling closer, “The Donor.” It starts out with a darkly hypnotic piano, throbbing timpani, wordless vocals in a solemn dance, but its chilling words grow into a heartbreaking Kyrie Eleison. If there’s any right way to end a brilliant and all-too-short career, that is certainly it.
- The Kiss
- The Donor
- The Vigilante
- Down Where The Valleys Are Low
- The Pearl
(copy-pasted this review from rateyourmusic because I wrote it less than a month ago)