In Muse, the talented Valerie Ghent steps away from gritty r & b, blues, and lyrical rock with which she’s associated to offer deeply personal, distinctly different material. Lyrics are simple and poetic, melody often incantatory. Her songs sound like ancient folk ballads; indigo odes of love and longing, pain and gratitude, invocation of grace. This is a CD to gift your best friend, lover, or husband; with which to lie alone in a dimly lit room – and breathe.
The mystical “Gentle Moon” comes in and goes out on cat feet conjuring legends. “With You” is lyrically more contemporary. Classic repetition and blue chord progressions support bittersweet expression. …When I reach for your presence/In my heart/You are there/Every time I fall apart…Ghent’s unfussy soprano soars up from breathy, lower turf. Shades of a young Judy Collins singing “Barbara Allen.”
“Old Town Square” is a rhythmic, nostalgic ache. Geography filled with smiling faces and open arms, might be a time in one’s life, a moment of human connection, aspirational innocence/security. Someday I’ll meet you there in the old town squa-hay-aye-air, the artist sings. “Heavenly” is like a one-act prose poem. Long notes, essences, stop/start phrasing, and a twirling chorus meld with haunting viola to offer up dreams.
Sung in perfect French, “Refrain De Mon Enfance” (Refrain of My Childhood) is the only selection written not by Ghent, but rather her great uncle, Eugene Cavos, with 1954 lyrics by Nick Frionnet and Christian Tison. This is the song of my childhood/Which wraps me in a tender love/A memory in my heart dances/This is the song of my best days. Curiously, Ghent’s own first composition at age 8 was in the same key and apparently has a similar melody. After her first live performance of it, the artist reconnected with long lost European family. It’s intoxicating, waltzy; like a tune from one of the more wistful, black and white films by Jean Renoir or Max Ophuls. Accompanying accordion cinches its effect.
“Misunderstood” (I never said I could) is a universal sentiment. Who among us hasn’t uttered the phrase? Bent notes and a hint of sob stand firm, but with an undercurrent of pleading. The gospel “You’re My Star” arrives like an appreciation. One could easily imagine it performed by a fully orchestrated church choir.
If there’s a Heaven for every good soul/Why haven’t I met yours? Ghent asks in “Here and Now.” Infused with strings, the musing (a second meaning) might come from Ulysses’ wife Penelope as she weaves during the day keeping her suitors as bay until completion, then undoes her work at night.
A “return to Ghent’s musical roots,” Muse is cohesive, a tapestry of songs in like mode with which you can float without fear of sudden abrasion. It’s introspective but universal and stirring. Arrangements are singular. Musicianship couldn’t be better.
Available on iTunes, amazon.com, CD Baby, and Valerie’s website.
Valerie Ghent-Songwriter/Piano and Vocals
Recorded entirely live in a studio “no punch-ins, piano or lead vocal overdubs”
Featuring: Dave Eggar-Cello, Nadia Ghent-Viola, Katie Kresek-Violin & Viola, Robin Macatangay- Acoustic Guitar, Booker King-Acoustic Bass, Bashiri Johnson-Percussion, Yuri Lemeshev- Accordian, Dennis Moriarty-Harmonica