Sheri Hixon - Life Stories (2011)

Sheri Hixon

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A lot of people go through life convinced that they that should have been born 20 or 30 years earlier. Sheri Hixon could be forgiven if she felt that way. After listening to HIxon's very good debut CD Life Stories, I'm convinced she'd be a star if this were 1971 or even 1981 rather than 2011. And I hope that's not taken to mean that the songs on Life Stories are dated. It's just the way that the music industry has evolved in the last couple of decades leaves little room for the kind of maturity and refinement listeners will hear on Life Stories.

A lot of people go through life convinced that they that should have been born 20 or 30 years earlier. Sheri Hixon could be forgiven if she felt that way. After listening to HIxon's very good debut CD Life Stories, I'm convinced she'd be a star if this were 1971 or even 1981 rather than 2011. And I hope that's not taken to mean that the songs on Life Stories are dated. It's just the way that the music industry has evolved in the last couple of decades leaves little room for the kind of maturity and refinement listeners will hear on Life Stories.

The Minneapolis based vocalist, lyricist and multi-instrumentalist wrote songs and played them at home at ungodly times of day. One day, her husband heard one of Hixon's creations, and told the musician that he liked the song. He thought the tune was something Hixon heard on the radio. Hixon told him that she wrote the song, and he encouraged his wife. That piece, the country flavored "5 a.m.," tells the story of a young and growing family separated by war. "5 a.m." begins with a husband receiving his deployment papers. The balance of the song takes the form of a letter from the wife to her deployed husband. Hixon paints a picture that allows the listener to visualize her sending an e-mail filled with recollections of the last time they touched and sharing news about how quickly their year old son has grown.

Still, Hixon's more Patti Austin than Patty Loveless, and she showcases her jazz, pop and R&B chops throughout Life Stories. Songs such as "Come On Home" showcase Hixon's skill as a lyrical storyteller and a vocal stylist who knows how to use intonation and phrasing to convey vulnerability. The song "Hold My Heart" deals with the opposite emotion. This track features an arrangement that has a Burt Bacharach aura. "Hold My Heart" tells the story of a woman who ends a relationship with an unfaithful lover. The arrangement for this ballad has a mournful feel and HIxon's mature vocals convey the pain of discovery, the anger and realization that she must make the painful decision to let this man go. The hook in which Hixon sings "pack your bags and leave/I'll need some time to grieve/then I'll be moving on to someone who'll hold my heart/the pain will go away/and I'll forget the day/you threw away my heart like you planned it from the start" while engaging in a call and response with a mournful trumpet drives home the reality that this relationship is dead. Both "Come On Home" and "Hold My Heart" stand out as tunes that listeners will find themselves playing repeatedly. They are the strongest of a very respectable group of tunes.

Hixon represents the kind of craftsmanship that listeners used to take for granted. It's kind of hard to find that kind of refinement in the mainstream, which makes it that much sweeter when records like Life Stories come to my attention. Highly Recommended.

By Howard Dukes

 
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