162

Maroon: Who the Sky Betrays

Celeste Sunderland By

Sign in to view read count
Maroon: Who the Sky Betrays Framed by burgundy velvet curtains, Hillary Maroon’s crimson dreadlocks glowed in the red gels at Tonic one evening last month. After a few adjustments on her vocal effects box, she and her quartet gently launched into a Radiohead tune, “The Tourist,” one of a handful of pop/rock covers that appear on Maroon’s second studio release, Who The Sky Betrays. Mimicking Tom Yorke’s grudging, impassioned vocals, Hillary and her band, co-founder/keyboardist Benny Lackner, drummer Lance Carter, and bassist Derek Nievergelt, established a dreamy, relaxed atmosphere for the fistful of fans who braved the icy winter extremes.

Attempting to diversify the sonic realm of jazz, and deliver its music to a culture that grew up on quick, over-produced pop songs, Maroon combines raucous, highly affected solos and catchy melodies, with graceful jazz rhythms and improvisation. The album includes special guests Marc Ribot (guitar), Nate Wooley (trumpet) and Alex Hamlin (alto). The extra trio’s expansionary prowess propels the quartet into an advanced realm that builds on their airy core.

Maroon’s vocals often come across whiney and wispy, especially on the Soundgarden song “Black Hole Sun,” which depends on clear, direct delivery to make its point. The Pretenders' “Show Me” takes the fast, tightly delivered tune and loosens its slick core into a lazy, instrumental-dependant jazz version. It has our nostalgia-pulse ticking at first, but once we reach the second chorus we’re craving that polished early ‘80s pop that gleamed off the original.

For reasons the covers falter, the five originals succeed. With compelling lyrics, they ooze with political overtones and deeply personal ponderings. “Will It Matter Who We Were” aches with remorse while highlighting the vulnerable beauty of Maroon’s voice accompanied only by pure, un-effected piano, bass, and drums. Lackner’s sweet, melancholy piano solo rings with innocent sophistication.

Extinguishing all innocence, Ribot arrives on the last track, John Lennon’s “Isolation” with a frayed, manic guitar solo. His coarse, vindictive vamps cut through Maroon’s fervid vocals as she sings the legendary songwriter’s lyrics with their mix of political angst and torn-apart heart.

“Bully On The Block,” a metaphor for U.S. foreign policy, could be a Broadway hit. The rock beats, dark suspicious chords and menacing keyboard underlie Maroon’s punchy, spiraling vocal decent—apropos for a “No blood for oil!”—exclaiming Mrs. Hannigan.


Track Listing: 1. Is This The Time? (Benny Lackner/Hillary Maroon) 2. Bully on the Block (Benny Lackner/Hillary Maroon) 3. Will It Matter Who We Were? (Benny Lackner/Hillary Maroon) 4. The Tourist (Radiohead) 5. When the Storm Comes (Hillary Maroon) 6. Show Me (Chrissie Hynde) 7. Black Hole Sun (Chris Cornell) 8. Beyond the Bliss (Benny Lackner/Hillary Maroon) 9. Spun Me Shaky (Hillary Maroon) 10. When I Fall in Love (Victor Young/Edward Heyman) 11. Isolation (John Lennon)

Personnel: Hillary Maroon: voice; Benny Lackner: piano, electric pianos, synth; Derek Nievergelt: acoustic bass; Lance Carter: drums. With special guests: Marc Ribot: guitar (tracks 1, 4, 5, 8, 11); Nate Wooley: trumpet (tracks 1, 5, 8, 10); Alex Hamlin : alto sax (tracks 1, 5, 8).

Title: Who the Sky Betrays | Year Released: 2004 | Record Label: Head Fulla Brains


Tags

comments powered by Disqus

More Articles

Read BACHanalia CD/LP/Track Review BACHanalia
by Jack Bowers
Published: June 24, 2017
Read Hallways CD/LP/Track Review Hallways
by Paul Rauch
Published: June 24, 2017
Read The Crave CD/LP/Track Review The Crave
by John Sharpe
Published: June 24, 2017
Read Chase The Light (Excursions in Soul, Reggae, Funk, and Dub) CD/LP/Track Review Chase The Light (Excursions in Soul, Reggae, Funk, and Dub)
by Joe Gatto
Published: June 24, 2017
Read Kickin' Child - The Lost Album 1965 CD/LP/Track Review Kickin' Child - The Lost Album 1965
by Doug Collette
Published: June 24, 2017
Read Towards Language CD/LP/Track Review Towards Language
by John Eyles
Published: June 23, 2017
Read "Sunrain" CD/LP/Track Review Sunrain
by Geno Thackara
Published: November 25, 2016
Read "Points of View" CD/LP/Track Review Points of View
by Geno Thackara
Published: March 26, 2017
Read "Negative Spaces" CD/LP/Track Review Negative Spaces
by Dave Wayne
Published: November 20, 2016
Read "Of The Night" CD/LP/Track Review Of The Night
by Dan McClenaghan
Published: August 28, 2016
Read "Jazz Marathon 2" CD/LP/Track Review Jazz Marathon 2
by Jack Bowers
Published: March 20, 2017
Read "The Wild" CD/LP/Track Review The Wild
by Mark Sullivan
Published: April 29, 2017

Join the staff. Writers Wanted!

Develop a column, write album reviews, cover live shows, or conduct interviews.