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Catie Curtis Link:

Catie Curtis

Catie Curtis
My Shirt Looks Good on You

2001, Rykodisc

Like Shawn Colvin and Suzanne Vega before her, Catie Curtis has emerged from acoustic music's clubs and coffeehouses, and sits on the edge of stardom. Opening dates, first for Mary Chapin Carpenter, and more recently on tour with fellow folk goddess Dar Williams, Curtis has played larger and larger arenas to a growing audience and a widening circle of fans and critics. The news is this—she is not our own private secret any longer. The word is out that Catie Curtis is something special.

My Shirt Looks Good on You has a lush pop sound, delivered by some of the best musical talent in the Northeast. In addition to Curtis’s regular Jimmy Ryan on mandolin and mandocello, there are Billy Conway on drums, Andrew Mazzone on keyboards, and the magnificent Duke Levine standing in on electric guitar for a number of tunes. The only thing that's missing is more of Boston favorite, Kris Delmhorst, who only supplies backing vocals on one song.

The recording is chock-full of lyric-driven tunes like the opener, "Run," a hypnotic Latin, jazz-infused number penned by Curtis and three band members.

There is something in her phrasing—that stretching of the voice to reach a note—that lends Curtis both a rock solid strength and an edge of vulnerability. I don't know of any other vocalist who can do this as well. "Kiss That Counted" demonstrates these qualities perfectly, as the song's protagonist knows that she's falling into the abyss called love, but is going there willingly, almost defiantly. "You say, ‘it must be 4 AM/ And I say, ‘If I don't kiss you now/ I will never sleep again.’"

"Jane" is the perfect pop rock tune. Great bass lines put down by Andrew Mazzone, and Billy Conway's drums drive the tune to its rhythmic conclusion.

One of the CD's best cuts, though, is "Bicycle Named Heaven," about unrequited love, two-wheeling kid style.

If heaven had only loved me the way it loved you
I'd have had freedom around me like you do
I always want what I can't have
All I got is a photograph of you and heaven

Catie rocks out on the title cut, "My Shirt Looks Good on You," care of the superlative licks of guitar god Duke Levine and sidekick Michael Eisenstein. When this girl declares her love, she does it with a big sound and big letters!

My favorite song has to be "Elizabeth," a lyric-driven love song which harkens back to Curtis's roots in folk and acoustic music. It tells of long distances straining the bounds of love. I love the chorus, which demonstrates Curtis's brilliance with words.

I see a slow train crossing the bridge
Over the Ohio River
She bends and she winds and she's taking her time
But nobody can stop her
From headlights through all ninety-two box cars
She will not rest
And, so too, I move toward you
My love, Elizabeth

Co-written with the multitalented Louisiana-born Mary Gauthier, "Sugar Cane" condemns the destruction of the environment wrought by the sugar cane industry in her native state. It's a powerful tune with lyrics so vivid you can almost smell the cane burning.

Catie Curtis has something that very few of her contemporaries have—an ability to appeal to a cross-section of the listening audience in a voice which is truly distinctive and uniquely her own. Not only does she move between genres, from folk to pop to rock, with ease, she does so with grace and likability. Her sweetness and vulnerability hardly masks the strength of her New England bred convictions. Her strongly held faith in love, friendship and community always triumph.

My Shirt Looks Good on You, ably produced by Trina Shoemaker and Catie Curtis, is a sparkling tribute to Curtis's talents as a songwriter, vocalist and musician. Suffice it to say that she is simply one of the best performing songwriters out there today. Those who don't know her will. And like a diamond, it is hard to hide her brilliance. A magnificent achievement!—Roberta B. Schwartz

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