Love's Small Song is performance artist, giant tricycle rider, multi-instrumentalist, and gifted songwriter Baby Dee's follow-up to her remarkable 2000 debut, Little Window. Like its predecessor, the 11-song cycle of love, loss, anger, and forgiveness is built around the former circus performer's deceptively simple piano work and tin pan alley vocals. This time around, her work is accented by harp and accordion. This allows for a larger canvas to display her rich, uplifting, and often devastating autobiographical song-poems. Recorded in her native Cleveland where she relocated to care for her ailing father, the record begins with the pre-dawn cooing of robins, a track that continues unabated throughout the album's entirety. The birds, recorded in her mother's backyard, are an integral part of Dee's character, and feature prominently in her prose. The second disc is simply the avian field recording sans music, and is explained by the artist in the liner notes: "Whatever it is that the robins are saying, It's absolutely true and terribly important, and they say it with a sincerity that men could only wish for." They are a symbol of hope amidst the revelation of an abusive childhood that is only now, in the twilight of her father's life, being reconciled. The opening track, "The Moon and the Morning Star," is a tale of escapism and comfort among the carnage of familial turmoil, and radiates with a childlike warmth that, like Tom Waits' "Tom Traubert's Blues," eases the listener into a world they may not want to explore all by themselves. It's an appropriate introduction to the singer's unwavering faith in love, life, and the renewing power of the next morning that helps make the transition into the trilogy that follows even more potent. The naked "So Bad" -- easily one of the most powerful, personal, and well-executed songs about abuse ever recorded -- is a dynamic tinderbox of emotion that relies on an almost blues-based chorus that intones "Jesus got my mom in there/and beat her up so bad." The melody is stunning, and the fact that this harrowing lyric is sung above an almost orchestral piano and harp motif makes it all the more otherworldly. "When I Get Home" chronicles the dread of losing track of time with the simple refrain of "I'm gonna get it when I get home." Once again, the gorgeous melody belays the violence within, making what seems like the most uncomfortable of subject matter simple, honest, and beautiful. The trilogy finishes with "My Heart's Come Home," a song that sees Dee reborn as a robin, circling her past like a vulture consumed by love, purged of her appetite for the rotten remains of her youth. The five songs that follow reveal an artist that may or may not have transcended these experiences, and the exceedingly prominent robin imagery builds throughout, eventually transforming Dee past the blue skies of Cleveland, and into the very embodiment of the moon, the stars, and the sun. This fantasy world, while extraordinary, is somehow tainted now. In a sense, Love's Small Song is an exorcism. It is a scab that, when torn away, reveals a wound that has been healing on its own for a great while, and simply needed to be exposed completely.
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AllMusic Review by James Christopher Monger
Track Listing - Disc 1