North of New York
First Appeared in The Music Box, February 2008, Volume 15, #2
Written by John Metzger
Tue February 5, 2008, 10:30 AM CST
For decades, America’s highways have been cluttered with singers and songwriters who, in a never-ending race from town to town, are searching in intimate coffeehouses and late-night sandwich shops for the next opportunity to share their tales of love, loss, and life. So much ground has been covered, so many songs have been sung, that it might seem as if there couldn’t possibly be anything left to say. It’s harder than ever, then, for newcomers to make their mark, and it all boils down to their ability to leave an emotional imprint upon their audience.
At first glance, there’s nothing particularly special about Charlotte Kendrick’s work. Her music is adorned with an ordinary blend of acoustic and electric instrumentation, and her melodies are merely pleasantly engaging. Her latest endeavor North of New York, much like its predecessor I Get Stupid, is the sort of album that easily sinks into the background, providing a soothing soundtrack for an evening spent with friends over wine and cheese or coffee and scones. The more time that is spent with it, however, the more that it reveals.
With a voice that draws immediate comparisons to Suzanne Vega, Kendrick fills her songs with a beautiful stillness that is transfixing. As she winds her way through the 11 tracks on North of New York, she deftly turns her deeply personal thoughts into soul-stirring statements that can be appreciated universally. She counters a pledge of devotion (Thank You) with the inescapable pain of a relationship that has frayed (Off the Tracks), and she balances her desire to have a child with the maturity of knowing that she’s not quite ready yet (In Time). On Caroline, Kendrick turns her attention to telling the tale of a woman who lost her father soon after she was born, and her observant lyrics expertly portray the way in which her subject’s hardened exterior masks the mourning that continues to lurk within her heart. Elsewhere, on both Yellow and Let Go, Kendrick explores the rippling repercussions of becoming caught up within the rapid pace of society. The result is a sad, lonely plea for connection and meaning, one that rings with truth and honesty, one that lingers long after the final notes of North of New York have slipped quietly into the night.
1 Star: Pitiful
2 Stars: Listenable
3 Stars: Respectable
4 Stars: Excellent
5 Stars: Can't Live Without It!!
Copyright © 2008 The Music Box