Jonathan Richman

Because Her Beauty Is Raw and Wild

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Jonathan Richman closes his 20th album, 2008's Because Her Beauty Is Raw and Wild, with "As My Mother Lay Lying," a simple, emotionally powerful song in which he sings about sitting with his mother as she hovered near death in a home for the elderly, and how much he continued to learn from her even in her final moments. It's a singular piece of work that without calling attention to itself shows how far Richman's muse has taken him in the past decade. While sweetness and unaffected emotional honesty still dominate Richman's music, he's quietly allowed his music to grow in unexpected ways, embracing French and Spanish as well as English, writing of art and the ecstasies of love with unforced intelligence and brio, and pondering the mysteries of life and decay in a manner that's never pretentious but still conveys the weight of his themes. Richman covers a Leonard Cohen number, "Here It Is," and it fits like a charm with the 12 new originals on this album (one divided into two parts); Richman may not share the same dark undercurrents that inform Cohen's lyrics, but as he's matured his songs reflect a depth and fearlessness these two songwriters certainly share, and the intimacy of these recordings, most featuring just Richman and percussionist Tommy Larkins, only adds to their effectiveness. When Jonathan Richman debuted with the Modern Lovers, he sounded like someone who had somehow managed to create his own style independent of what was happening in the world of music around him, and with Because Her Beauty Is Raw and Wild, he confirms that he's still following a path all his own, and it's a journey that's strange, compelling, and very beautiful.

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