Catharine Wood

Demonstration Disc, Vol. 1

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Though intended, as the title indicates, to be a disc designed in order to bring her songs to wider attention more so than her own performances of them, on Demonstration Disc, Vol. 1 Wood also demonstrates her sound musical abilities overall -- she plays nine different instruments on the disc, besides handling all vocals and production work. It's one thing to have that technical ability and another to make it work, and Wood does -- her music suggests such artists as Carole King and Carly Simon. That may seem a throwback in an era of Alanis Morrissette and Gwen Stefani but, like Tori Amos, say, Wood reinterprets the past through her own particular vision, and does it quite well. The emphasis is generally on gentler music and lyrical sentiments throughout -- emotional evisceration is not on the agenda -- but there's plenty of intense love-drunk feeling abounding, as the opening "Call to Arms" shows in spades. Wood's voice throughout the album is strong and soulful, her overdubbed vocals just as effective as her single voice on her own. (Check out the sharp, sweet edge she introduces on longer notes here and there -- "Oh Tomorrow" has some fine examples of this.) One has the distinct feeling that if Vonda Shepherd actually put some effort into her work, the result would be pieces that could rank up there with the pleasingly intriguing "My Time," with its tight sense of low-key drama, and the '50s tearjerker-tinged "Feed Me." Stripped down to just voice and guitar, as the start of "Colored Moments" shows, Wood succeeds just as well as she does with more orchestrated material, while a tendency for time signature shifts is handled with a subtle grace. Wood's ultimate goal may be behind the scenes work, but give her deserved credit -- she could do just as well on her own.