Cindy Stratton: Hummingbird cd

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Posted on 22nd November 2014

Cindy Stratton “Hummingbird” CD

November 2014

Cindy Stratton has been quietly singing, writing songs, making albums for several years in Bath while raising a family, working, teaching. The second part is called ‘life’; the first part is usually called ‘career’ if you don’t have a life. Her new cd, Hummingbird, is the next step in Cindy’s ‘career’ and it is gorgeous, it is artful, and is an artistic step few achieve. 

Cindy Stratton has a transcendently beautiful voice — I think it’s gotten more so with time — which ranges from alto to soprano with ease and retains its humanity in higher ranges, often not the case with such highly trained singers. 

The album begins auspiciously with a chorus loop fading in to Cup of Good Will, which has the sound of English folk, ominously dark lyrics, and impassioned singing from Cindy.

The sound of English folk runs through parts of the album but certainly does not define it. The next song, Hummingbird, has those folk roots but moves into more modern songwriting and become something of a singing, not tour de forcetour d’elegance is more accurate. 

By the time you get to the third song, Love Is The Remedy, folk has receded completely.

It has a very slight Crosby-Stills-Nash feel and, like most of the songs, a very minimal instrumental accompaniment; mostly it is a call-and-response between Cindy and the chorus and it works beautifully.

Cherish The Love goes deep into ambient, atmospheric territory. It has a simple guitar line that repeats like a loop, an insistent chorus of “cherish the love” and Cindy in dark, intimate whisper mouthing the lyrics with the word “hunger” recurring. It reminds me of the original Sally Go Round the Roses by the Jaynetts, it is the shortest song on the album, and I love it.

Wash My Sins Away and Strange Places take elements of the previous two songs and use them in more complex and melodic song forms, particularly Strange Places. Once again, there is very minimal loop-style accompaniment and echoey chorus framing Cindy’s spectacular voice and singing. Both, like the others, have very slow tempos and a remarkable vocal intimacy. These last two songs seem very close to home. Strange Places contains elements of wistful regret and acceptance that bring a tear to the eye of this old man. 

The album ends with Burning Babe, a 16th c. poem by Robert Southwell set to music by Chris Wood. It returns us fully to English folk and it is like waking from a spellbound dream the previous four songs held us in. 

The album is brief, seven songs averaging just over 3 minutes each, but it feels complete, bigger than it is. The heart of Hummingbird is, for me, those four songs in the centre. The first two songs are excellent and the last, Burning Babe, is far better than Sting’s version but that heart, with its piercing intimacy of Cindy’s voice against its spare backdrop, elevates Hummingbird to rare and exceptional heights. A truly transcendent album.

Charley Dunlap

Hummingbird and other Cindy Stratton cds are available on CD Baby:

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