Andrea Perry's moving parts
'River Of Stars' CD is a shining serenade to the soul
Frank Cotolo

A few rare indie artists are maturing, transforming from perfectly produced pop performers into musical poets, shedding the skin that covered the raw nerves of truth, identity and a sure sense of mortality. These artists have taken quantum leaps of faith in expression, sans any matter of obligation; and their new works find them standing defenseless, overt and yearning.

Now, in the spotlight of this short list, is Andrea Perry, whose third CD, "Rivers Of Stars," dares to present songs that are free of academic weight; songs which, like the fluid emotions they express, waft and drift and float and go deliciously adrift. And she does it 14 times, one breath after another, making lyrics and music become inseparable.

The most personal pieces of art transcend individual meaning and inspiration to attach themselves to the lives of their audience. So, when Andrea, in "Day Moon," sings "I need a little more heart to bear a little more pain," the object of her affliction has nothing to do with how strongly that line affects us. In fact, the line takes on a life of its own, becoming that special thing that only a friend would tell you privately.

All of the tracks on this CD relate to the conflict of being able to hold on to life's beauty in the face of life's cruel reality. Life, as Andrea calls it, "this little time" in the song of the same name, will move foward with wreckless abandon, never stopping for the sake of any precious moments. So it is appropriate that the CD opens with the track "Fly," which gives you a sense of not how free it is to glide to the whim of the wind, with the current of time, but what pain is attached to releasing that which must, including what pain it is to hope that the releaser can eventually become the released.

Andrea's voice sings the melodies of these tunes with tearful whispers and in pretty pain. There is nothing one note longer than is needed and the guitars, pianos and spots of orchestration are never anything but exact punctuations and light, moveable scenery for the theater of the tune. The words and music move as does the theme.

Constantly, Andrea addresses the paradox of movement. "I am lost/Are you ever coming back again?/Does the road that you're on just stretch on and on?" she sings in "Leaves Of October." Yes, October acts as a metaphor of change, but Andrea shifts the perspective dearly in the final verse, singing, "Are you lost?/Are you ever coming back again?" So who is really moving from or away here?

The conflict of emotional inertia is nowhere as evident as in "Broken Heart," where "You can't take the sun down with you" and "You can't stop the earth's rotations." And because of such hopelessness, how we all long not to linger in the bittersweet remnants of life, to plea, "Free me from this broken heart/Pull the last stitch apart/And send me reeling in the void to rise up a new." And always, Andrea's voice in these songs is clearly aware of the conflicting energies. Why else would she answer her own question in "Don't You Still Want Me?" by singing "No" in the same, painfully conscious, less-than-sanguine breath?

Andrea does not sing here for want of empathy or sympathy, but to assure us that the movement of it all and to defy it is natural and we all share what time leaves in its path, though we are not always responsible for what we take with us, for better or worse. "Until I find a way around you I am bound to you," from "It's In The Way," a title with an obvious dual meaning, is one more situation of the desire to run in place, so to speak, because there is something comforting in the energy to do so. Even the piano solo here sounds joyfully bound while restless at the same time.

Andrea Perry delivers this message directly to our hearts.

"Take Me Where The Lions Roar" is another plea to accept escape, due to being "trapped behind these city walls," which are, of course, the same walls that would be a blessing to fly over, as the opening song suggests. But where the lions roar is also "where the vipers feed" and so on. Is that a better place to be taken? Not to go, to be taken. And after all, as in "Never Knew," Andrea sings, "I thought I was gone/I had to go on" to "Find a place on the map." Movement.

In "Reservoir," she is "floating through the deep," yet she is planted almost defiantly in "Let's Not Go Out Tonight," arguably the most melodic of the 14 songs, wanting to "let the world rush by outside." In "Soul Cries" she wishes for someone or something to "wisk me away," and in "Wasting Away" she sings, "Keep me from tumbling right out of this world." Andrea's songs are on the precipice, in that fleeting moment before taking the next step, already mourning the necessity to move on.

All great artists recognize the futile battle with time and space, which can only offer, with delicacy, rare moments of meaning. And all artists try to capture the essence of such magic, asking, "Stay with me through this little time." Because, perhaps, there is no other way to survive peacefully in the endless current of the rivers of stars. Andrea Perry delivers this message directly to our hearts in this CD, which is flawlessly arranged and produced by her, with subtle yet defined drums from Chris Searles and lyrics by Andrea and, on a four tracks, by S.D. Lishan.

Andrea notes that the title tune was inspired by an episode in Carl Sagan's "Cosmos" series. That is especially suitable, since Mr. Sagan said, "Who are we? We live on an insignificant planet of a humdrum star lost in a galaxy tucked away in some forgotten corner of the universe in which there are far more galaxies than people." Making it all the more important, as Andrea's new CD suggests, for each of us to be sure to fill our small reservoirs with meaning.

And, as the haunting repetition of the signal sent out into space closes the title track and the CD, we are left to recognize that signal as a heartbeat that calls out relentlessly with hope, though still has not been answered.

Andrea Perry's newest work, a CD called Rivers Of Stars, is stunning, to say the least. You can listen to some samples from the CD by clicking here.

Frank Cotolo can be found hosting the talk and interview programme Cotolo Chronicles, every Thursday starting at 9 pm on Network 1KX.
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