Experiment In Truth
Following four sterling albums for St. Louis’ MaxJazz label, René Marie has decided to reduce her red-hot career to simmer, take a break from the rigors of the road and the recording studio and settle into semi-retirement with her new husband in Denver. Thus her self-produced Experiment in Truth can be considered a farewell of sorts, though here’s hoping it’s only a temporary adieu. In this multifarious effort, Marie speaks to her professional past with a more angular interpretation of “Vertigo” than she’s offered before. She also glances back to her difficult youth (while simultaneously nodding to her lifelong dedication to social issues and charitable causes) with “This is (Not) a Protest Song”; acknowledges her current life changes with a powerfully forthright cover of Bob Seger’s “Turn the Page”; waves goodbye with arguably the most beautiful departure song ever written, Leonard Bernstein’s “Some Other Time”; and looks to her less-frantic future with the breezy “Colorado River Song.”
I’ll confess to puzzlement over the album’s title, since Marie has always struck me as one of the most fundamentally truthful singers in the business. I’ll also confess being caught off-guard by the opening track, “Weekend,” which seems to tell of a battered wife who finds solace in the arms of a would-be rapist. But there’s no confusion about the message at the heart of the closing track, “O Nina,” a tribute to the storm-the-barricades gutsiness of Nina Simone, Billie Holiday and their ilk. On that note, “This is (Not) a Protest Song” is more than just semi-autobiographical. It’s also a challenge to all performers following in Holiday and Simone’s footsteps and speaking their mind in song; every cent that’s raised from the song (available as a single at renemarie.com) is being donated to the homeless.