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October 2008

Rebecca Martin
The Growing Season
Sunnyside

Rebecca Martin will be the first to insist she’s not a jazz singer, or a folk singer, or a pop singer, or any hyphenated combination thereof. She’s just a singer, and a songwriter, and on both counts, a damn fine one. Martin opens The Growing Season, her second consecutive collection of original material, with a coy number called “The Space in a Song to Think,” a gentle poke at listeners and critics who tend to over-interpret a lyricist’s intent. Then, in the company of three exemplary players—guitarist and keyboardist Kurt Rosenwinkel (who also produced the album), drummer Brian Blade and Martin’s husband, bassist Larry Grenadier—she settles into a soft, easy groove to emphasize the joy and beauty of expressionistic simplicity as she explores such fundamental themes as truth, honesty, the safety of home, the protective cocoon of family and the innocence of childhood.

Over the years, Martin has often been likened to Joni Mitchell and Norah Jones. Heady praise for sure, though neither fair nor entirely accurate. Martin’s voice, as singer and writer, is entirely her own, derivative of no other. Still, I’ll dare to venture into the comparative territory she detests and suggest that these 13 songs do seem to reflect the quiet majesty and gut-level integrity of Tracey Thorn. Indeed, I never thought there’d be a better evocation of youthful reminiscence than Thorn’s “Oxford Street”—until, that is, I heard its fraternal twin in Martin’s “Make the Days Run Fast.” Nor did I believe any album could match the soothing, thought-provoking sincerity of Thorn and Ben Watt’s (aka Everything But the Girl) Idlewild until Martin created its magnificent equal.

Originally published in October 2008
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