Normally, I steer clear of anything seeming to indicate surreally high glucose factors, a persistant problem in the New Age genre, so, at first I found myself a tad trepidatious of Kimbery Haynes’ Awaken Me: Songs from the Heart of a Seeker merely through the cliché title. I’m by nature crusty and cynical, far more in Barbara Ehrenreich’s anti-brightsiding camp than Lisa Garr’s goopy Miracles For Auction venues, and so approach many music releases with an arch glare, sometimes snorting, often red-eyed, and occasionally even vitriolic…until I accidentally fall into beauty and lay insensate on the floor, helpless, a big goofy smile creasing my formerly tightlipped mug,”‘ooohs” and “ahhhs” issuing contentedly from narcotized brain and mouth, sighs following close by. Verrrrry embarrassing for a card-carrying member of the He-Man Critics Club!
But that’s what happened as the very first cut of this disc, the title track, floated out of the speakers and into my unsuspecting ears, arising from a bell tone into melisma and thence lyrics in Haynes’ gentle, soothing, wistful, and haunting voice. A cross between Eva Cassidy, Joni Mitchell, Kate St. John, Kate Bush, Annie Haslam, and any number of honey-voices chanteuses, not only are her deliveries satiny and mellifluous but this woman can boast excellent compositional skills as well, the lion’s share of the cuts hers (a few in collaboration and then John Farrar’s “You’re the One I Want”). That’s Haynes’ key, that ability to write authenticity and gravity into the melodics, even the most ethereal numbers.
The Joni Mitchell similarities are numerous, based in a blend of cosmic, country, folk, transcendent, and mello-rock styles, but these do not constitute everything, clearly understood when she reachesresplendent passions in “My Heart Knows the Way”, “Do I Dare”, and elsewhere. At every point, sincerityrings through, and the two constituents, the vocal and instrumental elements, serve as bolsters to eachother in the subtlest but most suffused of ways. A number of sessioneers craft highly supportiveempathic washes of notes around her, and it’s something of a surprise to find Haynes started very young as a Christian gospel singer influenced by Ella Fitzgerald, Billy Holiday, Doris Day, and others.
She then moved on to apprentice as a cantorial solist at a local synogogue before entering into a long study Peruvian shamanic practices, Eastern philosophies, world religions, and so on. Ms. Haynes describes her music as sets of devotionals and prayers, but I do not agree, not much caring for propitiation (prayer) or the odd practice of worship (devotional). What I do like is truth and art, and her truths are sound enough while her artistry is extremely attractive, the two marrying in a compelling result capturing first the ear, then the mind, then the heart.
FAVE CUTS: “Do I Dare”, both mixes; the Earth Mix is the instrumental version of the vocal original, with background vocals retained, and quite hypnotizing, progressive, a cut that could’ve gone on and on and on for hours without the least complaint from me.