On the Other Hand
New CDs with wonderful music and a local connection
By MICHAEL CARUSO
Chestnut Hill Local
December 17, 2009
I first had the pleasure of hearing Katie Eagleson this past summer in Pastorius Park, and what a revelation her singing was to me! She drew her repertoire from what is nowadays often called “The Great American Songbook” of classic popular standards and her new album, “On the Other Hand,” proffers 16 intelligently chosen and exquisitely sung masterpieces of the genre. The CD opens with “Who Cares?” and closes with “Too Marvelous for Words” – the latter providing a ready answer for the former’s question. Anyone who loves the great works of lyrics & music that once defined American popular music are the very ones who should and do care about singers like Katie Eagleson, and they’re the one who will undoubtedly find this album too marvelous for words.
But permit me to offer a few regarding the CD. It includes such tiny masterpieces as “Last Night When We Were Young,” “How Deep Is the Ocean,” “I Concentrate on You,” “Guys and Dolls” and “I Wish I Knew,” and all of their renditions capture Eagleson at her loveliest and most telling. Her voice is clear and unaffected yet poetically inflected. Her diction is pointed and simple. Her phrasing is natural yet potent. And all of her instrumental accompaniments work to efficaciously interact with her singing by providing an instrumental dialogue with her voice that supports yet never overwhelms the words.
And remember. It’s the words that come first and remain foremost in these songs. Eagleson’s voice is beautiful, but it’s how she utilizes that beauty to communicate the meaning of the lyrics that makes her singing so memorable. While studiously avoiding cheap sentimentality, she nonetheless delivers the inner sentiment that motivates the personal narrative of each selection, entering into its world and delving into its emotions to return all the wiser for the sake of her listeners. Though obviously still quite young, Eagleson sings with a knowing maturity that ranks her as an artist fully deserving of a broader stage.