Listening to the spare, pared-down elegance of Leslie Mendelson’s Love And Murder, I found myself with a conundrum: how can anything this stripped down have so many layers, such deep echoes, so many overtones? How can this clean and simple a production cast so many shadows, and in so many different directions?
It’s been a long time since I found myself wondering in quite this way. Mendelson is in some good company; the last one that caught me in quite this way was Ani DiFranco’s Dilate. Rarefied air, indeed.
Listening to Love And Murder, I caught myself playing a lot of free association. The opening track, “Jericho”, for instance, has a harmony at the end that suddenly put me back into the early 70s. It took some interior hunting to identify the trigger as David Crosby’s multiple a capella vocals on “Orleans”, off his solo album. The exquisite “Murder Me” evoked Peter Gabriel in his “San Jacinto” period. “Chasing The Thrill” has a relentless lyric and the faint delicious touch of Annie Lennox in the vocal. And “The Circus Is Coming To Town”, possibly my favourite track, left me wondering if Mendelson had found an uncovered Tom Waits song. Yes, she really is that diverse and yes, she really is that good.
But along with being diverse and good, Mendelson always remains herself. There is no sense of homage to other artists here – these are her lyrics, her stories, her wounds and heartfulness and everything else that goes into crafting these small wonderful gems. While bringing DiFranco to mind, Mendelson sounds nothing like her; she sounds like herself.
Of the ten songs, seven are originals. It’s probably no coincidence that those seven are the ones I keep replaying.
If you haven’t listened to Leslie Mendelson yet, either on her own or recently with Steve Kimock or Bob Weir, Love And Murder is a really superb way to get started. Treat yourself.