A Review of Nonie Crete's CD
"Girl In A Crazy World"

"Girl In A Crazy World"
by Nonie Crete

Private Label: nc004)
Copyright: Nonie Crete 2003

This review is written by Dai Woosnam, daigress@hotmail.com, 2/04

The story so far. Some 15 months ago I was seated at this same desk in my home here in Grimsby, England. And out of the blue came a surprisingly good CD called “Danny Boy & Ballads” by a Canadian singer/songwriter named Nonie Crete: someone who, at that point in proceedings, I had never even had on my radar. The album was a delight, and was amongst my top ten albums for 2002. And then I discovered she had already produced a not-inconsiderable body of work, and was also in some demand gigging in her native country.

So I awaited her follow-up album with interest. And here it is. Was it worth the wait? Emphatically. Does it even improve upon her last? Probably not, but it is open to debate, and we'll talk about that in a minute.

Let's first get the trivia out of the way. I said the following when reviewing her last CD: “…there is no liner (lyric) booklet with this album. But that's no loss: such is her beautiful diction, it is not needed. “ . And so what do we get this time? You've guessed: all the lyrics! Let nobody say that an artiste goes out of their way to comply with a reviewer's wishes! (Ha! I am teasing you Nonie, if you are reading this.)

But joking apart, there really is no need for liner lyrics, because if English was the listener's SEVENTH language, I swear to you that he/she would understand every syllable. Look, let me put it this way: if I needed someone to plead for my life (in SONG of course) to a jury who were relative newcomers to the English language, then Nonie Crete would be my gal! What a Defence Counsel she would make! She would not lose a case.

So, with that in mind, I have to say that I was a touch disappointed to see the lyrics all set out here. Oh, she's avoided all that trendy nonsense like printing the lyrics in pale yellow on a white background that has one straining one's eyes: au contraire, the words are wonderfully easy to read. But they are taking up space. Space that could have been used for Nonie giving us an entrée into her “creative process” for each song.

You see, there were questions that arose with every song. Now I realise that this isn't “painting by numbers”: no songwriter should hold the listener's hand and spell it all out for them. But just a brief background as to how (where/when?) the song came to be written, would really ADD immensely to the enjoyment of the song.

There are twelve tracks on this album. True they all yield up their meaning without us having to go into darkened rooms to think about them, but HOW I would have loved to have from Nonie a few further insights into them. Take for instance perhaps the strongest song on the album “Let It Rain”.

Now, like most of her songs, it is written in the First Person. But that in itself tells one nothing. After all, adopting the “I” role is a time-honoured tradition of poets wishing to don another man's clothes and experience his existence vicariously. And it could be that Nonie has done just that here with much of this album. But not I feel, with this track.

It is a nakedly raw and compassionate song about the loss of a loved one, and in this case presumably, a mother. But, this deathbed scene seems SO personal, that I cannot believe it is “imagined” experience. And of course the greatness of the “very personal” in any art form is that paradoxically, it often lends itself to being embraced by a wider audience than the reverse…if you get my drift.

Many of us ­ myself included - have lost our mothers in a not dissimilar way, and by golly, we don't half relate to such searing “honesty of experience” as Nonie presents us with in this song.

It is one of two songs I expect to be widely covered. The other is another song with a sweet melody and the most limpid of lyrics: “Take Me As I Am” . This song has that same quality of heady new romance that I recall a great song of yesteryear providing: Rosemary Hardman's "Lady For Today”.

The other songs are all engaging, but in truth probably not strong enough to be widely covered. The musicianship is of the highest order: it is probably invidious to mention any one musician, but I will make mention of three. We do not hear much of Tom Leighton: four tracks as I recall. And then he plays THREE instruments on those four tracks. But what he does he does so well: especially his playing of the B-3 organ. Really thrilling. Nonie should use him more.

The second musician is her usual collaborator, Eugene Rea. Not so evident here as the last album ­ he is just on some 4 tracks ­ but by gosh, he is some talented multi-instrumentalist! He plays with enormous assurance.

And the third musician? Guess who? Why…Nonie Crete herself. Yes, I knew she was a very solid guitarist: but I had no idea what a gutsy, compelling blues harmonica player she was.

But forget her musicianship. Above all, she is a quality singer at the height of her powers: someone who handles a lyric intelligently and effortlessly. Marvellous diction and a voice that easily handles a range of two-and-a-half octaves. And when she leaves the microphone, there is a chip-off-the-old-block ready to take her place: her young 11 (now 12) year-old daughter Kathleen. She joins her ma on the final track.

Just listen to the way she sings the word “mend”: pitch perfect. She must have it in her genes.

This album was produced by multi-instrumentalist Paul Mills, that well-known name on the Canadian Folk Scene. The production values are of the highest order, and every instrument is HEARD to pay its rent in every song. But I still look forward to an album of Crete INTERPRETATIONS of Folk standards. She can put her own stamp on songs and not sing them parrot-fashion in imitation of the vinyl version she might remember from way back. Dig into the “Tradition” Nonie, if royalties pose the problem. But that said, this is fine to be going on with.

Buy it post free from Nonie at noniec@sentex.net.

Dai Woosnam
Grimsby, England

Track List: (no timings shown)

All songs by Nonie Crete unless shown.

Ownership, copyright and title of this celtic music CD review belongs to me, Dai Woosnam. Ownership, copyright and title are not transferrable or assignable to you or other parties regardless of how or if you or other parties use, copy, save, backup, store, retrieve, transmit, display, publish, modify or share the CD review in whole or in part. Please read the "Terms, Conditions and Disclaimers" section on my web site for addititonal information about using, quoting, or reprinting this CD review.

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