Melissa Errico

Lullabies & Wildflowers

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For what was intended to be her second solo album following the 2003 collection Blue Like That, Broadway star Melissa Errico reportedly teamed with composer Michel Legrand (having earned a Tony Award nomination for her performance in his 2002 musical Amour) and producer Phil Ramone in 2005. But that disc apparently was put aside, perhaps due to the singer's pregnancy; she gave birth to a daughter in 2006. The experience influenced her to take a new tack in assembling a sophomore effort, and instead she returns to solo recording with Lullabies and Wildflowers, a thematic album of songs about mothers and children. Since the children's music genre is such a well-established one, it should be stated at the outset that this is not an album of songs intended to amuse children, although, as the word "lullabies" in the title suggests, it may be useful in putting them to sleep; the arrangements, dominated by piano and acoustic guitar are calm, and should be calming. That said, Errico is mostly concerned about reflecting on a mother's (especially a new mother's) perspective on her child. At times, she tries to re-contextualize the songs she chooses to support that perspective. In terms of this album, for example, the listener is expected to suppose that the Gershwins' "Someone to Watch Over Me" is actually being sung by a child in search of a parent, which is not what Ira Gershwin had in mind, and Errico edits Judy Collins' "Since You Asked" slightly to give the impression it is being sung by a mother to a child. Such revisionism isn't entirely successful, but Errico sings the songs so feelingly that neither Gershwin nor Collins would be likely to mind. The choice of a Collins' song points up one of the singer's chief vocal influences. An even stronger one, accentuated by the jazz/folk/pop arrangements provided by producer Rob Mathes, is another Melissa, Melissa Manchester. At times (such as in "A Child Is Born"), Errico sounds so much like the young Manchester of albums like Bright Eyes that even Manchester fans might be fooled. Again, though, it's hard to complain about the similarity, which is largely a matter of timbre. Errico makes her debut as a songwriter with an excellent contribution, "Gentle Child," and as usual gives a nod to her brother Mike Errico, covering his "The Wind Says Shhh." The real end of the album comes with its penultimate track, the Beatles' "Goodnight," but then, after a pause, there's a playful coda, as what sounds like a scratchy old 78 begins to play at a low volume, and Errico goes into a light version of the old show tune "Walking Happy." It puts a pleasant capper on a lovely album, giving a mother something to tiptoe out of the room to after her child has been lulled to sleep.

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