Catie Curtis: Stretch Limousine On Fire

Written by August 30th, 2011 at 7:36 am

Catie Curtis:
Stretch Limousine On Fire
(Compass Record)
Rating: ★★★½☆

On the title track of Stretch Limousine On Fire, Boston-based singer-songwriter Catie Curtis watches a burning limousine from a back row seat in a traffic jam. Then she muses, “I guess it’s really just a small thing, but it made me feel so good.” Out of context, her reaction may seem strange, but the song delivers the focal point of the entire record. Life is cruel, but an equalizer. On the eleventh album of her 20-year career, Curtis examines these small cruelties of everyday life that grant immunity to no one.

With drummer Jay Bellerose and bassist Jennifer Condos – two of Ray LaMontagne’s Pariah Dogs – soft-spoken Curtis encapsulates the dark and comforting tone of Sarah McLachlan or Lucinda Williams with little more than a bedroom voice and acoustic guitar. The ten tracks are filled with the pains of a last time with someone, of being married, of being home – overly familiar subjects saved by Curtis’ perceptive tongue and scenarios specific enough to convince you that Stretch Limousine is an album of experience, not invention.

A taste for her soft style is necessary – otherwise the record comes off as sleepy. But then, it’s difficult to get psyched up for the “cheer up, you’re alive” anthem, “Another Day On Earth,” which is fast paced compared with the rest of the album. Curtis is better at painting detailed pictures, like on “River Wide” (whose deathly piano bears a resemblance to Ryan Adams’ “How Do You Keep Love Alive”): “Birds inside a room/trying to get out/circling the rafters at night/and if they make it free/they won’t be lost/they’ll move together across a river wide.”

Curtis depicts the dust of domesticity settling over the glitter of newly wedded bliss in “Wedding Band” without a trace of spite. She depicts the comfort in knowing that everyone gets burned, “even when they’ve got it good,” in “Stretch Limousine On Fire,” and her singing murmur at times sounds as if she’s talking to herself, setting her thoughts adrift on a calm instrumental sea that keeps her glass half full.

 

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