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LOU'S VIEWS: Sandi Patty, Carrie Newcomer and more from the CD shelf

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Lou Harry
Assorted music CDs (IBJ Photo/ Perry Reichanadter)

Thanksgiving, for many, is road-trip time—which also makes it a good time to give a listen to the latest discs from Indiana performers. Here’s a stack I’ve taken pleasure in over the past month.

Known for her top-of-the-gospel-charts song stylings and stints as occasional hostess of the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra’s Yuletide Celebration, Sandi Patty clearly has a passion for Broadway music along with her bread-and-butter sacred tunes. The origins of her latest disc, “Broadway Stories,” can be traced back to a “Sandi Patty’s Broadway” program with the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra. And while she isn’t Yuletiding with the ISO this season, Patty will be back in January for a concert version of “Hello, Dolly!”

There’s no denying Patty’s vocal power. She’s got it, ably handling the technical challenges of a “Swingin’ Love” medley and having fun with a set of songs she’d never sing in a show (including “Get Me to the Church on Time”). But whether the disc goes into frequent rotation in the CD players of Broadway buffs depends on one’s tolerance for Patty’s over-the-top finishes, particularly on “Can’t Help Lovin’ Dat Man” and “You’ll Never Walk Alone.” Be warned: There’s a whole field of lilies being gilded here.

That being said, Patty’s “Edelweiss” seems to have a genuine sense of place, her “All Of Me” (true, the song has nothing to do with theater) pops with Jack Everly-conducted panache, and I’ll admit to getting a kick out of a song I never thought I’d hear Patty singing—the creepy “Willkommen” from “Cabaret.”

Also in the category of eyebrow-raising singer/song match-ups: crooner Michael Feinstein and the mating-after-an-atomic-bomb novelty tune “Thirteen Women.”

Feinstein, artistic director of the Center for the Performing Arts, is in terrific voice here, but he may be accused of misrepresentation by calling his latest disc “The Sinatra Project, Vol. II: The Good Life” since most of the songs were not originally popularized by old blue eyes. But there’s a definite Sinatra style to the selection of songs. Not the sophisticated, oft-celebrated Sinatra of the ’40s and ’50s, but the chauvinist-and-so-what Sinatra that came later—the era where he seemed to change,

temporarily, from a vital, contemporary artist into a purveyor of “dad music.”

Joyfully and shamelessly digging into “Is You Is Or Is You Ain’t My Baby,” “Hallelujah I Love Her So,” and a pairing of “Luck Be a Lady”/“All I Need is the Girl” backed by a dynamic 30-piece orchestra, Feinstein may well win more converts with this one—if they are willing to bypass the silly, decidedly un-cool photos surrounding the liner notes. Sinatra would have shown a little more restraint.

A more original indication of an artist influenced by fellow artists comes courtesy of Carrie Newcomer, whose latest disc “Everything is Everywhere” beautifully incorporates Indian influences into her distinct folk singer/songwriter style.

The resulting set honors her collaborators (Amjad Ali Khan, Amaan Alik Khan and Ayann Alid Khan) while never denying her roots or coming across as an awkward attempt at crossing over. This is clearly a Carrie Newcomer disc—comfortable alongside the best of her work, including “Betty’s Diner” and “My Father’s Only Son”—while showing clear signs that she’s a talent who still has a lot she wants to learn.

With the beautifully crafted, sweetly sung title song finding its true fighting weight at nearly six minutes and everything else in the set clocking in at over four minutes, the disc feels both meditative and confident. At this stage in her career, it may be easier to just do more of the same. I’m glad to hear that Newcomer is still making discoveries. And I anticipate listening to this one repeatedly while also looking forward to where her journey next takes her.

Tim Grimm, who has collaborated with Newcomer in the past, pays tribute on his latest disc to another folk influence. “Thank You, Tom Paxton” makes a gentle case for the title singer/songwriter, who never quite garnered the attention of Bob Dylan, the notoriety of Phil Ochs, or the catchy cult status of Arlo Guthrie.

Even some of the once-better-known Paxton songs—“Bottle of Wine” and “Ramblin’ Boy” (both ignored on this disc)—might not generate much singing-along at a concert these days. But Paxton’s largely low-key tunes clearly had an influence on Grimm. He and a group of solid musicians, including Jason Wilber, Krista Detor and the White Lightning Boys, don’t attempt to overly transform such Paxton tunes as the melancholy “The Last Thing on My Mind”; the antic, bluegrass “General Custer”; or the charming baseball song “My Favorite Spring.” Instead, they respectfully give each tune a gentle freshening, playing up Paxton’s talents even if never quite inspiring a revisit to the original work.

Finally, the Indianapolis Symphonic Choir and the Indianapolis Chamber Orchestra go on record with a double disc recording of Felix Mendelssohn’s “Elijah.” I’m not going to pretend to offer a detailed critique of the music—I’ve only given the set a single listen on a car stereo—but all involved in this 2007 live recording from Clowes Hall come across well, including popular local tenor Steven Stolen and soprano Kathleen Hacker, chairwoman of the Musical Department of the University of Indianapolis.

Happy listening.•

__________

This column appears weekly. Send information on upcoming arts and entertainment events to lharry@ibj.com.
 

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  1. I took Bruce's comments to highlight a glaring issue when it comes to a state's image, and therefore its overall branding. An example is Michigan vs. Indiana. Michigan has done an excellent job of following through on its branding strategy around "Pure Michigan", even down to the detail of the rest stops. Since a state's branding is often targeted to visitors, it makes sense that rest stops, being that point of first impression, should be significant. It is clear that Indiana doesn't care as much about the impression it gives visitors even though our branding as the Crossroads of America does place importance on travel. Bruce's point is quite logical and accurate.

  2. I appreciated the article. I guess I have become so accustomed to making my "pit stops" at places where I can ALSO get gasoline and something hot to eat, that I hardly even notice public rest stops anymore. That said, I do concur with the rationale that our rest stops (if we are to have them at all) can and should be both fiscally-responsible AND designed to make a positive impression about our state.

  3. I don't know about the rest of you but I only stop at these places for one reason, and it's not to picnic. I move trucks for dealers and have been to rest areas in most all 48 lower states. Some of ours need upgrading no doubt. Many states rest areas are much worse than ours. In the rest area on I-70 just past Richmond truckers have to hike about a quarter of a mile. When I stop I;m generally in a bit of a hurry. Convenience,not beauty, is a primary concern.

  4. Community Hospital is the only system to not have layoffs? That is not true. Because I was one of the people who was laid off from East. And all of the LPN's have been laid off. Just because their layoffs were not announced or done all together does not mean people did not lose their jobs. They cherry-picked people from departments one by one. But you add them all up and it's several hundred. And East has had a dramatic drop I in patient beds from 800 to around 125. I know because I worked there for 30 years.

  5. I have obtained my 6 gallon badge for my donation of A Positive blood. I'm sorry to hear that my donation was nothing but a profit center for the Indiana Blood Center.

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