What would happen if Joni Mitchell, Kurt Weill and Carl Jung collaborated on an album inspired by folk tales? Scary? Intriguing? Stunning? Probably all of those descriptors. Chances are you’d get an insightful mixture of beautiful melodies, haunting lyrics, moody and eclectic instrumentation–and one long journey through the psyche of humanity’s greatest desires, pleasures and fears.
This is exactly what acclaimed singer/songwriter Jill Freeman has created on her album “A Handmade Life.” Using old folk tales as her starting point, Jill explores the subconscious underpinnings of these timeless–and often very disturbing–stories and how they reflect the human experience. “A Handmade Life” is made further compelling by the music that blends a singer/songwriter sensibility with intricate arrangements and instrumentation, painting cinematic pictures that urge the listener to join Jill on the entire trip.
Jill began writing the songs that would eventually populate “A Handmade Life” a number of years ago after reading several books that explored the psychology buried in many fairy tales.
“Fairy tales are like dreams, filled with deep symbolism about the human psyche,” says Jill. “They carry the voice of our subconscious. I wanted to dive into those dreamy stories, swim deep, and see what I came back with. This album is the expression of what I found there.”
Jill began a “sonic diary,” recording melodies, words and even “found” sounds on a digital recorder. These recordings set the tone for the album, with many of those original sounds and arrangements ending up within the tracks of the album.
Producer Joel Wachbrit helped further arrange the songs and brought in a wide range of renowned musicians who have played with such artists as Bonnie Raitt, Shawn Colvin, Bruce Hornsby, Michael Bublé, and Steely Dan to add striking textures to the songs. The result is an album of great emotional depth in words, music and overall “vibe.” This is true virtual reality–you feel as if you’re standing in the midst of a theatre production as the characters invite you in to experience the ride along with them.
“A Handmade Life” poignantly opens and closes with “The Light That Leads Me There.” The first version is very sparse featuring Jill singing over ukulele in an outdoor, urban environment that suggests the singer’s homelessness. It’s as if this is a prelude to sleep–the beginning of a dream. The words set the stage for the rest of the album, reflecting life’s hardships and pain and the hope for something better: “You see my aching search for loving kindness is the light that leads me there.” The album ends with an extended interpretation of the song with full instrumentation and additional lyrics to further explore the opening sentiments and the personal quest for wholeness.
The songs between these two versions take the listener on a twisting journey of self-exploration within the themes of different fairy tales. For instance, “Completely Unaware” offers a soaring ballad based on “The Wizard Of Oz” where that place “somewhere over the rainbow” challenges the Scarecrow to question whether he was better off without a brain. The Cinderella story is re-examined in “Walking On Glass,” a cool percussion-driven number that would easily fit in a speakeasy as it follows a young woman on a wild adventurous evening foray. Inspired by a particularly grim (Grimm?) story, “The Robber Bridegroom,” “Sweetheart My Dream Is Not Over” combines a sweet melody with an out-of-control circus motif as a young woman wakes from a disturbing dream and confronts her lover. “A Little Bit of Red” based on The Brothers Grimm’s “Little Red Riding Hood” is a jazz-flavored journey with a splash of Gypsy tonalities set in 11/8 time that looks at the excitement and fear of a young girl’s sexual awakening. Along with the other songs on the album, Jill shows that many familiar fantasy tales may very well reflect our deepest emotions.
Album descriptions on Last.fm are editable by everyone. Feel free to contribute!
All user-contributed text on this page is available under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License; additional terms may apply.