Barbara Higbie

I Surrender

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Picking up a few more ends of the eclectic ball of string that Signs of Life helped unravel, Barbara Higbie's I Surrender finds the pianist, vocalist, and violinist experimenting with contemporary pop, new age inflected with African rhythm, and jazz interpretation. It's a predominantly piano-driven album, though Higbie's dusky vocals are featured early, and her violin becomes a bigger contributor than on the previous outing. Opener "Harmony" and the title track are expert takes on mature pop, followed by the melancholy instrumental "Starry Sky." The album's midsection is given over to stylistic variance; she touches on Latin instrumentation, tries out some folksy singer/songwriterisms ("Your eyes were in my mind before we met"), and mixes African rhythms with tonal piano and her own violin for another instrumental called "Onyame." The Francophone cover of Coltrane's "Lonnie's Lament" is certainly bold, but it's entirely successful, especially when it continues to feature Higbie's violin. Her sweeping notes travel right into the following instrumental and on into the upbeat workout "Baby Buddha," which has some fun with the same piano and violin setup, letting the instruments trade licks off one another like a bluegrass band would. While I Surrender's prominent instrumentalism is accomplished and ever impressive, the album could have used some more of Higbie's fabulous, dusky vocals. With a style that shifts easily between comforting and confessional, her singing is often as experimental as her songwriting. This is a minor criticism, however. I Surrender joins Signs of Life as another example of Higbie's multifaceted, restless, and criminally underrated solo work.

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